Join Bridge Winners
Avoid the Ruffs
(Page of 9)

In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have a judgment call to make.

N-S vul, South deals. As North, you hold:

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
W
N
E
S
P
2
?

2: Weak 2-bid

Your call?

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
W
N
E
S
P
2
?

Your shape is almost perfect for a takeout double. While you probably don't have a game since partner is a passed hand, it may be vital to compete for the part-score. Double is clear.

You double. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
?

3: Invitational. If partner just wanted to compete to 3, he would double. That would not be a responsive double. It would be a puppet to 3, after which he would bid 3 to show that he was just competing as opposed to having game interest.

Your call?

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
?

Partner is a passed hand, which means that you are short values for game as far as point count goes. You might be in a 4-3 spade fit. Partner probably doesn't have 5 spades and a maximum pass, since with that he would have taken the bull by the horns and bid game himself rather than put you under pressure.

On the other hand, you have prime cards and an important singleton in the enemy suit. They aren't going to beat you on aces and kings alone. Passing is just too risky. They still pay that vulnerable game bonus.

If you are bidding, you don't have to commit to playing in spades. You can try 4. Partner will know that you have 3-card spade support, since without support for both majors you would have overcalled rather than made a takeout double. Bidding 4 doesn't show some super-strong takeout double. The concept of double followed by a suit showing a big hand might apply after a takeout double of a 1-level opening, but after a preempt you don't have the luxury for that. It is more important to make sure that you get to the right strain. If partner has 5 spades, he will get you back to 4. Otherwise, he may choose instead to play in 5.

You choose to bid 4, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

You picked the contract, so over you go to try to make what you picked.

West leads the 5. Third and fifth leads. Standard carding.

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
South
AK84
74
J86
Q1084
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
South
AK84
74
J86
Q1084
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

The danger is obvious. West's 5 is clearly a singleton. East figures to have a diamond entry. It can go ace of clubs, club ruff, diamond to East, club ruff, and you will be down before you start.

What can you do to avoid the ruffs? You must do the best you can in the club suit to either talk East out of winning the ace of clubs and continuing the suit, or talk West out of crossing with a diamond after he gets his ruff.

One possibility is to play the jack, pretending that you are taking a finesse. The problem with this play is that it doesn't really give East any problem. Once the jack of clubs is out of dummy, it will be safe for East to win and return a club. You are better off playing small. Now East will have to consider the possibility that his partner has led away from the queen, and that a club return will give you a trick if you have a singleton club. Also, East might find a reason to insert the 9.

An interesting ploy would be to play the king of clubs. East might think you are doing this because you have a singleton club, although this doesn't seem likely as you wouldn't be playing West to have underled the ace of clubs anyway. More likely East will place you with the queen of clubs, so he may think you are playing the king because you want him to win the trick. If he thinks that he might duck, playing his partner for a doubleton club.

You choose to play a small club. East wins the ace. What club do you play from your hand?

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
South
AK84
74
J86
Q1084
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

Whatever you do, you better not play the 4. That would make it clear that the opening lead was from an odd number of clubs, so East would play his partner for a singleton. Also, if East does return a club you know East will be returning the 7, his smallest club, suit-preference for diamonds. If you play the 4, the 7 will be known to be East's smallest club.

Your best bet looks to be to play the 10. This would be consistent with West having started with Q854, and would make your play from dummy make sense.

You play the 10. As feared, East returns the 7. Which club do you play from your hand?!

North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ63
South
AK84
74
J86
Q84
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

Once again, it would be fatal to play the 4. Your only hope is to conceal that card so West thinks East's return is from A74.

It might seem right to play the 8, letting West know about that spot card to make it more likely that East has A74. The problem is that it looks strange. If you wanted West to come back a diamond, why would you let him know about the 8? You would play the queen from Q1098, keeping open in West's mind the possibility that East's 7 was small from A987. In other words, you would play the card you are known to hold. Since that is what you would do if you wanted a diamond return, you should do the same thing when you want a heart return.

You play the queen of clubs. West ruffs, and leads a small diamond to East's king. East gives West another ruff. West now shifts to a small heart to dummy's ace. What now?

North
Q105
K65
KJ
South
AK84
7
J8
8
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

You will need to ruff one diamond in dummy. The other diamond can be discarded on the long clubs after drawing trumps. All will be well if the remaining trumps are 3-1.

What if East started with 4 trumps? You will want to pick up the suit, which you can do by leading the queen of spades first and then taking the marked double finesse. You would then still have to lose a diamond at the end, but if you instead play a spade to your ace first you risk getting tangled up and having yet another loser.

You lead the queen of spades. Both follow. You play a spade to the ace, West showing out. You can ruff a diamond, cash king of hearts, ruff a heart to your hand, draw the last trump, and dummy's clubs will take the last 2 tricks. The full hand is:

West
J76
QJ2
A109753
5
North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
East
932
10983
KQ4
A97
South
AK84
74
J86
Q1084
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
2
A
10
2
0
1
7
Q
6
3
0
0
2
5
2
K
6
2
0
3
9
4
7
6
0
0
4
2
A
3
4
1
1
4
Q
2
4
J
1
2
4
5
3
A
3
3
3
4
8
8

4 would have been the winning bid by North. South would have bid 5, and that contract is cold.

How was the defense?

West
J76
QJ2
A109753
5
North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
East
932
10983
KQ4
A97
South
AK84
74
J86
Q1084
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
2
A
10
2
0
1
7
Q
6
3
0
0
2
5
2
K
6
2
0
3
9
4
7
6
0
0
4
2
A
3
4
1
1
4
Q
2
4
J
1
2
4
5
3
A
3
3
3
4
8
8

It was perfect. The lead of the singleton was clear. East could see that the best chance was that it was a singleton, and of course he led back his smallest club, suit-preference for diamonds.

From West's point of view there were initially 3 higher club spots than the 7 and 1 lower club spot. This meant that East's 7 was the highest spot only if East started with A74. If East started with 4 clubs, the 7 would have to be his smallest club since it couldn't be his highest. Assuming East had 3 clubs, his initial holdings might have been A107, A97, A87, as well as A74. That meant the 7 was far more likely to be suit-preference low. The clubs that declarer chose to show East don't affect these calculations. It is the initial holdings which make the difference.

The really good defensive play was East winning with the king of diamonds rather than the queen. From a bridge point of view it doesn't matter, of course. However, it is helpful to partner since it lets him know instantly that he has done the right thing. If East had played the queen, West would have been sweating big time until declarer followed small. East properly played the congratulatory king. The sign of a good partner.

How was South's auction?

West
J76
QJ2
A109753
5
North
Q105
AK65
2
KJ632
East
932
10983
KQ4
A97
South
AK84
74
J86
Q1084
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
2
A
10
2
0
1
7
Q
6
3
0
0
2
5
2
K
6
2
0
3
9
4
7
6
0
0
4
2
A
3
4
1
1
4
Q
2
4
J
1
2
4
5
3
A
3
3
3
4
8
8

It looks right. South is close to an opening bid playing Precision, but you have to draw the line somewhere and the South hand is just below that line. The constructive 3 call is on target. Without that treatment South would have been forced to choose between the overbid of 4 and the underbid of 3.

At the other table West didn't open, and N-S wound up in a safe 2 contract. West led his stiff club, but East was trying to defeat 2 so he chose to return a trump and declarer had 10 easy tricks.

We have found that responsive doubles at the 3-level aren't particularly useful. There isn't much purpose in asking partner to pick a suit when he has asked you to pick one. Our treatment solves the difficult and common problem of distinguishing between a hand like South holds and a hand something like Qxxxx Kx xxx xxx, where South wants to bid the third and final spade without North taking him seriously and making a marginal raise.

22 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top