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A slam from Budapest
(Page of 6)

The European Teams Championship ended a week ago. I followed the first 6 days, and in the evenings commented too (in Hungarian).

This one was one of the most interesting hands I saw:

(rotated to make South declarer)


You play 6, opponents passed throughout (yes, you overbid slightly).

Opening lead: K

What is your best chance of bringing your slam home?

Read on only if you are ready with your plan.

The declarer I kibitzed won the opening lead, played a spade to the queen and lead a trump to the ace to throw his losing club. The basic plan is to finesse against the queen of trumps and if succeeded, not to lose more than one diamond, otherwise not lo lose any diamond at all.  

Do you agree so far, or do you think there is a better play? Think a bit before reading the next page.

Basic Plan 1 (throw a club then finesse against the Q)

Spade queen, heart to ace, throw the club loser on spade Ace, trump finesse. If trumps worked, try to tackle diamond for 1 loser (A, then lead towards J9, 84% chance). If trump finesse did not work then we still make when Q falls under the AK (19%). This play has about 41% chance according to my simulation with dealer (thank you to author, who is Hans van Staveren from the Netherlands)


Basic Plan 2 (throw a club, then a diamond)

Spade queen, heart to ace, throw the club loser on spade Ace, spade King, trump finesse. If spades and trumps worked, a diamond can be lost. If spades worked but trumps not, then the diamond queen must fall. If the spade king is ruffed by East then we can overruff, cash a high trump and if the queen fell then we have 84% chance to lose only 1 diamond, otherwise 19% to lose none. If West ruffs then we still make when he ruffed from trump length or the diamond queen falls. 

Overall chance is of this play is about 39% (the calculation is rather complex I don't bore you with the details, but I backed it with a simulation too)

Sabine Auken's plan (she played it as a member of the German Open team and kindly shared it with me):

To avoid guessing how many diamonds (if any) should we throw on spades we test diamonds first, that is cash AK of diamonds (unless the ten or the queen falls in the first round), spade queen, and then cross to dummy to throw the club. If the Q falls then we are basically made it: trump to the ace, throw the club, trump to the king, another tump. This is about 19%. The only problematic case when someone has Qxxx of trumps with xxxx of diamonds and doubleton spade and leads a diamond when in with trump queen. 

If the Q did not fall then Q, trump to ace, A ( from hand), K ( from hand), trump finesse. If spades are 4-3 then we need trumps to behave. If East has 2 of them then we still survive when he had xxx, Qxx or Qx if trumps and diamonds were 3-3. About 19%.

Of course we throw all diamond losers and make the contract when someone had JTx with Qx, Qxx or xx (about 3%).

This plan is about 41%, GIB plays this way too.


Denis Bilde's play: (from Sabine too)

It is a slightly improved version of Basic Plan 1. After cashing the spade Ace Denis finessed against East's Q. It's practically impossible to cover it from original Qxx (partner may have the jack), thus he remained on dummy and now could cash K to throw one of his losing diamond.

What is the twist? (or why I liked so much and published this hand?)

No, not because all of this percentages, not at all.

Let's say we start playing as in Basic Plan 1. If a defender has JTx and Qx, Qxx or xxx in trumps then we don't need diamonds to behave at all. We can simply cash A, K and 9 of spades when on dummy, and throw all minor suit losers from hand. The 9 of course will be ruffed most of the time, but there is a great chance that it will be ruffed either from trump length (original Qxx or xxx) or with the queen from original Qx. Then all our trumps will be good. If the ten was doubleton and the king of spades is ruffed by East, no harm made, we overruff, draw trumps and try to tackle diamonds for 1 loser.

The whole hand was


As you can see, our Basic Plan 1 would have led to success, because hearts are good, thus we have only one diamond to lose. Basic Plan 2 and Sabine's play was not good at the actual layout, because the king of spades was ruffed.

When the Hungarian declarer cashed the ace of spade from dummy, the 10 appeared from East, offering the above extra chance (JTx). Declarer took this chance (at least he thought so) and instead of the trump finesse he cashed the K too.  As you can see on the diagram, East threw the ten from JTxxx, decepting declarer and dectracting him from his original plan (basic plan 1), which would have been successful in the current layout.

The hero of the deal was John Carroll of Ireland, respect.

Let's mention Denis Bilde too, who made his 6.

Frequencies of the hand (originally North was declarer): Open, Women, Seniors

BBO Vugraph (it is board 24):

Please aware that BBO operators have a very hard job and thus can not always reproduce the play exactly.

If you have an alternative or improved play which looks better or similar than you already read, please tell us in comment!

If you think I miscalculated something, tell it too (it can happen, there are many cases).

If you played or defended the hand in Budapest, please share with us, what happened at your table! Thank you. (I asked Alfredo Versace and Patrick Jourdain too, but they have not answered yet. Hopefully they will do it here.)

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