Join Bridge Winners
Almost Garozzo
(Page of 10)

Playing in a recent state event, our strong club gets jammed:

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
?

I could pass, bid 3NT natural,or 4NT quantitative.

Your choice?

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
?

While the point range for 3NT is officially 8+ HCP, practical experience with strong club interference auctions suggests that the winning strategy is to give lighter positives.

High card points are a secondary priority when responding to an ambush. Our system notes have a quote from Garry Kasparov

"If your King is under attack, don't worry about losing a pawn on the queenside."

In the context of aggressive early action in a competitive auction, partner is likely to give us a lot of leeway for the 3NT bid. It's tempting to push this 12 HCP hand up towards 4NT quantitative. This might help ignite potential slam ambitions. It might even be the so-called percentage bid.

I prefer instead to stick with the other guideline in the system notes:

"Aggressive to game, conservative to slam"

The auction continues:

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Your lead?

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Trump leads after such auctions often appear automatic in hindsight.

Blowing a trick from KJxis way too much for my appetite and I chose a spade.

Dummy tracks:

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
North
9842
1093
KJ54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Partner overtakes the K with the A, cashes the J, and plays a third round of spades, declarer ruffing.

West
Q
KJ7
10732
K2
North
9
1093
KJ54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

What are your thoughts about the proceedings so far?

West
Q
KJ7
10732
K2
North
9
1093
KJ54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

My natural reaction to such non-vulnerable 3 overcalls is to anchor declarer on a six-card suit. However, partner's failure to return a heart makes it feel like declarer has all seven of them.

The play develops with a diamond to the King and partner's Ace.

Partner returns a trump, ducked to my J.

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

What do we know about declarer's shape?

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Declarer is known to hold two spades (he ruffed the third)

Declarer is known to hold six hearts (partner has one).

Declarer's shape in the minors is unclear. But there is one big clue.

The diamond to the King play strongly suggests a singleton diamond. Everyone heard East open a strong club. On the basis of information that declarer has so far in the play, he would rate to play a diamond to the jack if he held two or three low. The diamond to the King play suggests either a singleton or the far less likely Qxx.

It seemed likely to me that declarer's shape was 2-6-1-4.

Which suit to exit?

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

The reflexive exit is a spade or a diamond but the 2-6-1-4 hypothesis sparked a recognition.

As long as partner has some deep strength in clubs, this could be a hand where sacrificing a trump trick leads to two in return.

In principle, our plan is to return a trump now. When in with theK, play a second trump.

A thematic depiction of what could happen can be seen by clicking through this hand:

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
North
9842
1093
KJ54
65
East
AJ6
2
AQ98
AQJ109
South
105
AQ8654
6
8743
W
N
E
S
4
X
P
P
P
D
11
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
6
5
0
0
1
3
4
A
10
2
0
2
J
4
7
8
3
1
2
6
2
J
Q
2
1
3
2
5
J
3
0
1
4
K
9
9
A
3
2
4
3
K
5
10
0
2
5
7
10
8
Q
3
3
5
5 tricks claimed
N/S -1100
8

If we exit passively, declarer plays on cross-ruff lines and we score one heart trick.

Our active heart plays sacrifice a trump trick but we will often benefit with two additional club tricks, sometimes break even, and rarely lose.

Having decided on a heart, now comes the question:

K or7?

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

There seemed little difference between the two. Either play led to one entry to dummyfor any deep club finesses.

Recognition sparked a learning around similar situations involving trump trick sacrifices.

When both dummy and our hand have strong secondary holdings, it is often right to start with the big honor.

An example can be seen on the hand below

West
Q93
AKQ1054
73
Q2
North
J10
1098542
86543
East
2
J9862
QJ6
J1097
South
AK87654
73
AK
AK
W
N
E
S
6
P
P
P
D
11
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Playing 6, declarer is threatening to ruff two hearts in dummy. A low spade lead swaps a heart ruff for a natural trump trick. Declarer comfortably makes.

Contrast this to theQ lead. While this loses a natural trump trick, the squashing of dummy's spade holding is fatal. Declarer can ruff only one heart but the9 is promoted back into a trick and the contract can no longer make.

I'm not sure what the technical term for this play is but I think of it as the trump squash.

Back to the problem at the table:

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Is the K the right play on this hand?

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Understandingshowed that declarer's trumps are too strong on this hand for the trump squash to be relevant. Yet theK was attractive from a vanity point of view.

Having spotted the trump sacrifice play and grinded through the relevant shapes, it was one of those "I feel like Garozzo" moments. Playing theK seemed more flashy and in tune with the mindset than the boring7.

I played theK and ....

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

It went K - 9 -x -A

Next came the9, I logically played low round to partner's 10.

West
Q
7
1073
K
North
9
10
J54
6
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

As partner started thinking, I suddenly started sweating profusely.

It was clear that the only winning play for partner now was a low club, underleadinghis Ace to my King.

The reality of practical bridgehit hard when partner cashed the A. It crashed my King and set up declarer's Queen.

The full hand was

West
KQ73
KJ7
10732
K2
North
9842
1093
KJ54
65
East
AJ6
2
AQ98
AJ1087
South
105
AQ8654
6
Q943
W
N
E
S
4
X
P
P
P
D
11
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
6
5
0
0
1
3
4
A
10
2
0
2
J
4
7
8
3
1
2
6
2
K
A
2
1
3
2
5
J
3
0
1
4
K
9
7
A
3
2
4
9
2
5
10
2
2
5
A
3
K
6
2
2
6
7 tricks claimed
N/S -500
8

MyGarozzo-defence had managed to condense an easy 800 in top tricks to a soft 500.

While declarer holding theK is a possibility, partner should be able to work out the hand. There are many strong clues: declarer's heart suit play, the club count card.

Was it totally partner's fault?

West
Q
K7
1073
K2
North
9
109
J54
65
W
N
E
S
P
1
3
3NT
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

If I exit the7, it is easy to control the defence. Declarer will play a club which we can win to play another trump to finish off the hand. There will be no ambiguity about the heart layout in partner's mind. It is hard to imagine any hiccups with this approach.

Two pieces of advice from strong players I've played with come to mind.

The first one is from Tony Nunn:

"Keep the big ones. Get rid of the small ones "

The other is from Ishmael in the well :

"...I used to make lots of silly errors from not thinking or thinking partner will work it out instead of going the extra yards to try and make it easy for them."

Something to aspire to....

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