Even Better


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 07/01/2018
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

This deal was played (and reported to me) by David Berkowitz in the finals of the 2017 Blue Ribbon Pairs. David was declarer, but I ask you to take the West hand on defense:

♠ 1086  
♥ KJ8  
♦ KJ10  
♣ J1065.
 

At favorable vulnerability, your partner deals and opens 4♠. This is passed around to your LHO who balances with a double. RHO takes it out to 4♠ and you try 5♠. LHO bids 5♠ and your partner doubles. Everyone passes and it is your lead.

For partner to preempt and then double, he likely has a defensive surprise. It isn't a trump stack, so probably he has a void. Trying to hit that void, you lead the ♠J and see:

 

  ♠ AK97
♥ Q
♦ AQ74
♣ AQ94
 
♠ 1086
♥ KJ8
♦ KJ10
♣ J1065
   
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

The ♠Q is played from dummy. Partner doesn't ruff, but he wins the ♠K and returns the ♠9 to declarer's ♠10 and your king. Now what?

Why did partner underlead his ♠A? So you can give him a ruff. Did you play a club (figuring that even if he doesn't ruff this, his void must be in diamonds and you'll set the contract anyway)? That's not trusting your partner. He returned the ♠9, his highest--which is surely suit preference for the highest-ranking side suit. He must be void in diamonds. In fact, this was the Real Deal:

Vul:N-S
Dir: East
♠ AK97
♥ Q
♦ AQ74
♣ AQ94
 
♠ 1086
♥ KJ8
♦ KJ10
♣ J1065
  ♠ 52
♥ A9765432
♦ --
♣ K87
  ♠ QJ43
♥ 10
♦ 986532
♣ 32
 

So, if you return a diamond, partner ruffs and you later get a diamond trick for down 2. But, the best part of the story is yet to come.

At the table, West indeed figured his partner was void in diamonds--but he returned the ♠J.  Why does that matter? Because declarer also knew (from the bidding and play) what was going on. He played low from dummy on the ♠J return! How was East to know to let this win? He figured declarer had the ♠K, so he ruffed--in effect ruffing his partner's winner. Declarer was down only one after all.

West should return the ♠K!  Now, his partner can't go wrong and the contract is down 2. You see something new every day.