An Expert Should Get it Right


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 02/01/2019
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

This deal was (mis)played in the finals of the 2018 U.S. Team Trials. South held:

♠ AKQ874  
♥ 93  
♦ Q3  
♣ A85.
 

With nobody vulnerable, his partner passed and RHO opened a weak 2♠. I'd be fine with a 3♠ overcall (showing an intermediate hand like this and a good 6+ card spade suit). However, at the table, 2♠ was chosen. LHO raised to 4♠ and partner's 4♠ bought the contract.

The ♠A was led:

♠ J1062
♥ A6
♦ J75
♣ Q973
 
♠ AKQ874
♥ 93
♦ Q3
♣ A85

The defense played ace, king and another diamond, ruffed and overruffed. Declarer drew trumps, finding the 2♠ bidder with all 3 of them. Now what?

He needed to lose only one club trick and also discard a heart on dummy's clubs. Hoping for a 3-3 break with the king on his left, declarer played ace and another club. This was the Real Deal:

 

 

 

Vul:None
Dlr: North
♠ J1062
♥ A6
♦ J75
♣ Q973
 
♠ --
♥ Q52
♦ AK9842
♣ J1062
  ♠ 953
♥ KJ10874
♦ 106
♣ K4
  ♠ AKQ874
♥ 93
♦ Q3
♣ A85
 

West correctly played low on the second club ("splitting" his honors could have proved disastrous). Declarer could try dummy's ♠Q (resulting in down 2), but he guessed to play low, but still down 1 (East took the ♠K and the defense still had to get a heart trick).

So, how could declarer have made it? The bidding and play marked East with 3=6=2=2 shape (he opened a weak two bid in hearts and showed up with 3 spades and 2 diamonds). Knowing he had only 2 clubs, the right play is clear. Go to dummy and lead a club to the 8! This "intrafinesse" wins the contract. West wins this trick, but later the ♠A drops the king and a marked finesse in clubs allows declarer to throw his heart on the fourth club for +420.

Note that the defense could have prevailed with a heart shift at trick 2.