Real Deal #15

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/20/2016
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Larry Cohen's article from Better Bridge Magazine - The Real Deal #15


Dir: South
♠ 3
♥ K3
♦ AQ876
♣ K9753
♠ J1065
♥ 10985
♦ J
♣ AQ102
  ♠ K
♥ Q72
♦ K109542
♣ J84
  ♠ AQ98742
♥ AJ64
♦ 3
♣ 6

It’s good to have a sense of humor.  Normally, I write up any deal given to me by Better Bridge. This month, the computer ‘s (they sent me a randomly generated computer deal) first try was a bit boring (I didn’t think it would be an interesting article). So, I asked if it was possible to get another deal. The programmer replied, “Sure, we have only several trillion more we can deal out.”

On the second try, we got this interesting layout. South could open 4♠, but his hand is too good. He should start with 1♠. Is North worth a 2-level response? In standard, where it shows only 10+, he has enough to respond on the two level. Even using 2/1 GF (which I strongly recommend), I think North is worth a 2-level response (we’ll get to which suit in a moment). It is true that North has a poor fit for spades, but he has a nice 5-5 hand of his own with good controls (not a bunch of queens and jacks).

With 5-5, it is normal to bid the higher-ranking suit first (either as opener or responder). This lets you bid the lower ranking suit next without having to use that dreaded R-word (“Reverse.”).  So, North starts with a 2♠ response.

Should South bid his 4-card heart suit next? With 6-4, probably yes, but not with 7-4. South rebids 2♠ (South should not jump—there is too much exploring to be done). North now takes the opportunity to mention his clubs. The auction has started 1♠-2♠-2♠-3♠. Now what?  South surely has the unbid suit (hearts) stopped, but this doesn’t look like a notrump hand. South would love to hear spade support (even a doubleton) from partner. South can mark time by bidding 3♠. This bid could be a bit confusing. Is it natural? Is it looking for 3NT? There is no clear answer. In this case, South happens to have a good four-card heart suit, but he might make this same 3H bid on a hand such as:  ♠AKQxxx  ♠Jxx  ♠♠Qxx– Just hoping his partner can bid 3NT.

North, with hearts stopped, and having shown his minors, would now bid 3NT. South’s hand doesn’t look good for notrump (those spades might get wasted). South corrects to 4♠, buying the contract. The long auction has been:  1♠-2♠-2♠-3♠-3♠-3NT-4♠P.

West will likely lead his singleton diamond. (I like Benito Garozzo’s tip: “When on lead, if a singleton is at all possible, lead it.”). In a suit contract, my advice is to think in terms of losers. South has to lose one club and no diamonds. The trump suit is a mystery (South might lose one trick on a good day, two on a so-so day, and three on a really bad day). The hearts are a very important suit. South can take a finesse against the queen and/or ruff a heart in dummy.

At trick one declarer wins the ♠A. Should he draw trump?

No. He would like to use dummy’s trump to ruff a heart loser. At trick two the ♠K is played, followed by another heart. Should South finesse? Maybe.

If the ♠J were to lose and a trump came back, South would be dead. I’d be too afraid to finesse (putting all my eggs into that one basket). I’d rather put up the ♠A and ruff a heart. Maybe the heart queen will fall (doubleton or tripleton). Even if it doesn’t fall, I could get lucky and lose only one trump trick. Let’s say I chicken out (imagine using the words “chicken and egg” in the same bridge paragraph) and play the ♠A. Next a heart ruff in dummy brings down the queen. Now what?

Declarer has to get off dummy. Not expecting 6-1 diamonds, he would try a diamond ruff to hand. Disaster! West overruffs. Now West gives East a heart ruff (declarer’s good ♠J is ruffed with East’s ♠K). The defense has two tricks, and still has the ♠A and West’s natural trump trick; down one.

Upon reflection, declarer may have made this hand. No, not by finessing the ♠J at trick 3. Declarer would still have to ruff his low heart in dummy. Then, he can’t prevent West from getting in to issue a fourth-round heart ruff.

The way to make the hand was straightforward (though maybe not the best theoretical line). Win the lead and start the trumps (spade to the king and ace, then the spade queen). Then lead a club. That sets up dummy’s ♠K for a heart discard. Declarer can throw one heart on the ♠K and then finesse against the ♠Q. In all, he would lose only two spades and the ♠A. Looking at all 52 cards, it is much easier to play this game.

Lesson points:

1)      With 7-4, rebid the 7-card suit

2)      On defense, when in doubt, lead a singleton against a suit contract

3)      As declarer in a suit contract, look at the tricks you must lose.