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Discovery
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One of the most thought-provoking ideas of declarer play is the genre of “discovery plays.” There are two piles of clues, one from the bidding and lead, and another from whatever you can learn on your own initiative. Take this hand that came up in a recent regional pair game.

 

North
K8
K73
1098765
Q6
South
AJ10953
AKQJ2
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
5
5
P
P
P

 

N-S were vul vs. not. East opened 1H and South chose to double. West bid 4H and when this was passed around to South, he bid 4S. But when this was passed around to East, he bid 5H and South, right or wrong, bid 5S. West led the 3 of diamonds.

The immediate concern upon seeing dummy is to locate the spade queen. Time to think about the clues.

North
K8
K73
1098765
Q6
South
AJ10953
AKQJ2
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
5
5
P
P
P

 

Both opps have a singleton diamond and five hearts. Most likely one defender is 3514 and the other defender 2515. Probably the player who bid 5H (East) has the 5-5. Other clues are less reliable inferences. East did not bid 5C on the way to 5H. Would East have done that with the AK of clubs? West led a singleton diamond. Would West do that with Qxx of trump or xxx of trump?

You could win the lead in hand, so as not to block the diamonds, and play a trump to the king and a trump to the ace. If the queen appears you make six. If West has queen third, you’re down one. Or you could take a first-round finesse through West’s presumed Q-x-x, and make six that way, or go down one if East started with queen doubleton. Any other ideas?

I gave this hand to one of my most promising students, who I’ve been coaching for a little over a year, and she answered by email quite brilliantly:

North
K8
K73
1098765
Q6
South
AJ10953
AKQJ2
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
5
5
P
P
P

“There are 16 HCPs missing. I have to find out who has SQ. Club honors might be split or it is possible for East to have both of them. I will first try to find where HA is and club honors are. That may help me to locate the SQ.

"Win the lead in dummy. Lead HK. If covered, ruff and play club. If not covered, pitch a club. If West wins with Ace, the remaining 12 points are with East and so play him for SQ. If West has CA, East has SQ. If West has CK (he can’t have both AK), it is still possible for West to have SQ. East might have opened with 11 HCPs and 2515. But go with odds, 3 to 2, and finesse through West.”

 

My student was embarking on a discovery line of play. At the cost of an overtrick, because if you win the lead in dummy, you won’t score your sixth diamond for a club discard. But it certainly increases your chance to make the contract.

Here was the full hand.

West
Q74
QJ982
3
9854
North
K8
K73
1098765
Q6
East
62
A10654
4
AK732
South
AJ10953
AKQJ2
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
5
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Using the Discovery method, you win in dummy, lead the HK to the ace and ruff. And lead a club. East wins the ace and king, then leads a heart. You ruff, finesse through West, cash the SK and ruff a heart back to draw the last trump, that lovely Q.

Matthew Granovetter can be reached through his website at Bridgetoday.com

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