Join Bridge Winners
Dodging the Endplay
(Page of 9)

In the first segment of a trials match, you face a difficult defensive problem.

Both vul, South deals. As East, you hold:

East
Q3
KJ87
KJ
Q10964
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
?

1NT: 12-14


You play that a double of 2 is lead-directing for clubs, even vs. a weak notrump. Our experience has been that having the double just show cards doesn't seem to work that well, so it is better used to show something specific.

Do you double?




East
Q3
KJ87
KJ
Q10964
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
?


Clubs is your longest suit, and you do have good spots in clubs. If partner has no suit of his own, a club lead is probably best.

On the other hand, you do have honors in every suit. You can stand any lead from partner. You wouldn't be happy having doubled 2 to get a club lead vs. 3NT if partner has queen-fifth of hearts.

One final factor is that doubling is not risk-free. The opponents probably don't have what they need for a business redouble, and even if they have it the may not know it. However, if 2 does get redoubled you will not be a happy camper.

It is a close decision, since a club lead is quite likely to be the best lead vs. 3NT. Also, if partner fits clubs he may be able to compete rather than let the opponents buy it for 2 or 2. Despite this, on balance, passing is probably better.

You choose to pass. The bidding concludes:

W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


Partner leads the 10. You play Rusinow leads and ace from AK vs. notrump, with the king being the power lead. Thus, the lead of the 10 shows the jack if not from a short suit. The leader may or may not also have a higher honor. It is just like a standard jack lead.

North
9862
AQ2
AQ73
J8
East
Q3
KJ87
KJ
Q10964
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


Due to the spade spots in dummy you can't afford to play the queen, so you play small. Declarer wins the ace of spades, and leads the 4 of diamonds. Partner plays the 9, dummy the queen, and you win your king. You play Smith echo. If partner is giving Smith, high means he likes the opening lead suit and low means he doesn't.

How do you defend?



North
986
AQ2
A73
J8
East
Q
KJ87
J
Q10964
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


You know a lot about this hand. For starters partner certainly has the king of spades, since from J10xx or J10xxx he would have led low with no meaningful spots to back up the honors. That places declarer with the ace-king of clubs, the only other high cards you can't see.

How are the spades divided? It looks like partner has 5 spades. If declarer had Axx of spades he might have ducked the first trick. Also, would partner have led from a 4-card spade suit to the KJ10 with no other high cards? Not likely. He would have preferred a heart lead even from 3 small.

How many diamonds does declarer have? If he has only 4 the defense is in good shape since even with your jack of diamonds dropping declarer has only 2 clubs, 3 diamonds, 1 spade, and 1 heart, so you can afford to be end-played and still defeat the contract. However, it looks likely that declarer has 5 diamonds. The notrump range is 12-14, and declarer has only 11 HCP. In addition they are vulnerable, and opening a vulnerable weak notrump with 11 points and no other features is not a good idea. The only feature of importance declarer can have is a 5-card diamond suit. Thus, you can expect declarer's hand to be Ax, xxx, 10xxxx, AKx, with the exact club and heart spots unknown.

If declarer has 5 diamonds he has 8 top tricks -- 4 diamonds, 2 clubs, 1 spade, and 1 heart. You are in serious danger of being end-played. You would like partner to lead a club or heart through, as that may take the pressure off. If you lead the queen of spades he can't afford to overtake, since then dummy's spade spots will produce the ninth trick for declarer. A club shift is obviously no good. Perhaps the best defense is to exit with a diamond and let declarer play the hand. The hope would be that later when you are in you will lead the queen of spades, and partner can overtake and put a heart through.

There is a problem with this line of defense. Declarer can see what is happening, and instead of running the diamonds he will play a spade himself to cut the defensive communications. Once again partner will be unable to overtake due to dummy's spade spots, and now you will be truly end-played. Furthermore declarer will know that you have the queen of clubs, since if you didn't have that card you would have cashed the queen of spades and led a club. So this defense won't work. You have to unblock the queen of spades, even though this loses communication with partner.

You lead the queen of spades. Declarer plays the 7, and partner the 5. Now what do you do?




North
98
AQ2
A73
J8
East
KJ87
J
Q10964
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


If declarer has 4 diamonds you can exit safely with a diamond and be sure of defeating the contract. A club shift would be disastrous. Declarer would have no choice but to duck. That would give him his eighth trick, and you would almost certainly wind up getting end-played.

You have worked out that declarer should have 5 diamonds for his opening bid. This means that he has 8 top tricks, and an end-play looms. Perhaps it is right to shift to a club. You know that this gives declarer his ninth trick, but he doesn't know that. From his point of view the heart finesse could be on, or he could work out to end-play you after forcing you to make 3 discards on the diamonds. The defense of unblocking the queen of spades and shifting to a club is exactly what you would do if you didn't have the queen of clubs. There is no way declarer is going to let this ride if you can find the club shift without giving the show away. You will still have to worry about a possible squeeze end-play and you and your partner will need to find discards on the run of the diamonds, but you may be able to mislead declarer in the end position. You will be helped by declarer thinking that your partner has the queen of clubs, so he won't be trying to end-play you in clubs.

Alternatively, you can exit with the jack of diamonds and let declarer play the hand for himself. If you do this, you are very likely to get end-played later on. The immediate club shift looks better.

You choose to play the jack of diamonds. It goes goes 5, 8, ace. Declarer now leads the 7 of diamonds from dummy. What do you discard, and what is your plan?




North
98
AQ2
73
J8
East
KJ87
Q10964
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


How can you dodge the upcoming end-play? If declarer runs his diamonds pitching a spade from dummy, which seems likely, you will be forced to come down to 6 cards. To make matters worse, declarer will deduce that you have the queen of clubs. If you didn't have the queen of clubs you probably would have led a club rather than a diamond.

Keeping 4 clubs and 2 hearts probably won't do the job. Partner will be forced to hold 3 hearts and a spade, so he would have to come down to a doubleton club. Declarer can then cash ace, king, and a club, and you will be end-played.

How about pitching 3 hearts, blanking your king. Now you can't get end-played into leading away from your king of hearts. Declarer will probably lead a heart to the queen and your king. You will have to break clubs, but leading the queen of clubs prevents declarer from getting 3 club tricks. If partner has 109 of hearts it appears you are in good shape, and even 106 of hearts might be good enough. But wait! Declarer can cleverly duck the queen of clubs. You have no choice but to continue. Declarer cashes his clubs, and partner is squeezed in spades and hearts.

You have a better chance by hoping that partner can help out in the club suit. All you need is for him to hold the 7 of clubs, and he is a 3 to 1 favorite to hold that card. The idea is to come down to 3 hearts and queen-ten and a small club. If declarer plays high clubs you play the 10 under the ace and the queen under the king. Partner will come down to 7xx of clubs, 1 spade, and 2 hearts. If declarer leads a third club, partner wins, cashes his spade, and puts a heart through. If declarer ducks a heart to you, you have a club entry to partner.

Declarer has a counter for this defense if he has as much as 9xx of hearts and reads the position. After running the diamonds, he leads a club to jack and queen. You return a club. He cashes his clubs, and leads a low heart. If partner plays low (which declarer will know is the smallest outstanding heart since you have the 8 and 7), declarer ducks. If partner plays the 10, which of course he will since you might have KJ9, declarer covers with the queen. Either way, you are end-played. Only if partner started with 109x of hearts will the defense definitely win out. Still, this is your best chance.

Does it matter what you discard first? It might. Partner will have to be sharp enough to hang onto his 7xx of clubs, but he has the same information that you have and can work out the position. However, if declarer has the 7 of clubs partner can't help in the club suit. If partner holds 532 of clubs he may think declarer has AK4. If that is the case, you can discard 3 clubs and if declarer misreads the position and plays 3 rounds of clubs his 5-spot holds up. By discarding the 4 of clubs you let partner know that won't work, so he can discard a club himself to let you know you need to guard the clubs.

You discard the 4 of clubs. Declarer plays the 6 of diamonds under the 7, and partner discards the 5 of clubs (upside-down attitude is your default agreement on discards). Declarer leads the 3 of diamonds off dummy. Your discard and plan?




North
98
AQ2
3
J8
East
KJ87
Q1096
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


So much for that plan. Now your only chance is to discard 2 hearts and hope that declarer misreads the position. If declarer cashes his top clubs after running the diamonds, you will play the 9 and the queen (the card you are known to hold). Declarer may think you are down to singleton 6 of clubs and not try to end-play you. If you discard another club, the position will be too easy for declarer to read.

You discard the 7 of hearts. Declarer wins the 10 of diamonds, partner discarding the 3 of clubs. On the last diamond, partner discards the 4 of spades, dummy the 8 of spades, and you the 8 of hearts. Declarer now leads the 4 of hearts to 6, queen, and king. What do you play now?




North
9
A2
J8
East
J
Q1096
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P


You may have gotten a reprieve. It depends on the heart suit. If partner has the 10 of hearts, leading the jack of hearts will defeat the contract.

What about if declarer has the 10 of hearts? If partner has the 9 you have no chance, since declarer will have no choice but to hope the jack is dropping. But if declarer has 109 of hearts, he may take another finesse.

Meanwhile, you have to lead something. If you lead a low club, declarer will ride it to the jack. The queen of clubs may do the trick. The clubs will be blocked, and if declarer has 109 of hearts he will take another heart finesse.

Leading the queen of clubs is not safe. If partner has the 10 of hearts, it might occur to declarer to win the ace of clubs, lead a club to the jack, and play a small heart off dummy. You would now have to give declarer his third club trick.

Declarer shouldn't have 109x of hearts. If he did, instead of running the diamonds and squandering the entry to his hand he would have crossed to his hand with the third round of diamonds and taken a heart finesse. Now you would truly be end-played. So forget about the fancy queen of clubs play and just put the jack of hearts on the table, hoping partner has the 10.

You lead the jack of hearts. Partner does have the 10, and you defeat this close contract. The full hand is:

West
KJ1054
1063
98
532
North
9862
AQ2
AQ73
J8
East
Q3
KJ87
KJ
Q10964
South
A7
954
106542
AK7
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
2
3
A
3
1
0
4
9
Q
K
2
1
1
Q
7
5
6
2
1
2
J
5
8
A
1
2
2
7
4
6
5
1
3
2
3
7
10
3
3
4
2
2
4
8
8
3
5
2
4
6
Q
K
2
5
3
J
9


Obviously declarer could have made the hand by end-playing you in clubs.

Could partner have discarded better?




West
KJ1054
1063
98
532
North
9862
AQ2
AQ73
J8
East
Q3
KJ87
KJ
Q10964
South
A7
954
106542
AK7
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
2
3
A
3
1
0
4
9
Q
K
2
1
1
Q
7
5
6
2
1
2
J
5
8
A
1
2
2
7
4
6
5
1
3
2
3
7
10
3
3
4
2
2
4
8
8
3
5
2
4
6
Q
K
2
5
3
J
9


Partner did fine with his first club discard, letting you know that he couldn't help in clubs. Of course partner had to hang onto his hearts. However, once declarer was in his hand with only one dummy entry, partner should have discarded two spades. The second spade winner is of no value to him, and the club discard may help declarer. After the club discard, if declarer had properly cashed his high clubs he would have seen partner show out on the second club and the end-play would have been a lock.

What do you think of partner's opening lead?



West
KJ1054
1063
98
532
North
9862
AQ2
AQ73
J8
East
Q3
KJ87
KJ
Q10964
South
A7
954
106542
AK7
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
2
3
A
3
1
0
4
9
Q
K
2
1
1
Q
7
5
6
2
1
2
J
5
8
A
1
2
2
7
4
6
5
1
3
2
3
7
10
3
3
4
2
2
4
8
8
3
5
2
4
6
Q
K
2
5
3
J
9


Leading a spade is clear. The opponents didn't have an invitational auction, so they may have the extra strength to take 9 quick tricks. A spade lead could run the first five tricks, or it could set up 4 tricks along with your entry if declarer is unable to hold up long enough.

A low spade lead looks better. Leading an honor gains only when dummy has Q9x and declarer has a doubleton, and even with that layout declarer might decide to go up queen hoping the opening lead was from AK. The low lead shows a definite profit when dummy has 9xxx and declarer queen-doubleton. Also, if dummy has Qxx and declarer xxx, declarer has to guess whether to play to play low and block the suit or to play the opening leader or AK. After the lead of the 10 it isn't much of a guess, since West wouldn't be leading the 10 from AKJ10.

On the actual hand, the choice of which spade to lead didn't matter. On a small spade lead declarer would duck the first spade, win the second, take a diamond finesse, and we would be in exactly the same position. On the actual 10 lead, declarer was willing to trust the lead and play for the blockage. Perhaps right, but a tricky 10 lead from KQJ10x would have left declarer with egg on his face.

It should be noted that doubling 2 would have been a successful action. The club lead would make things a lot easier for the defense. Declarer could still make the hand via a squeeze end-play if he reads the position perfectly, but he will probably go down.

One more thing before we leave this fascinating hand. It looks like East's best defense is to cash the queen of spades and then shift to a club. Now, suppose West had thought a long time before ducking the spade queen. While ducking the queen of spades is probably the right play, there might be hands where it is necessary to overtake and cash 2 spade tricks. The huddle doesn't tell East anything new about the hand, since as we have seen East can work out the full hand with almost 100% certainty anyway. However, it does tell East what is likely to happen if he shifts to a club. If West held the queen of clubs he would have had nothing to think about, since it would be clear to duck the spade and let East shift to a club. Declarer can pick up on this, so if East shifts to a club declarer should trust the huddle and duck.

The question is: Is East entitled to know that the huddle will tell declarer how to make the hand on a club shift, and therefore stay away from that defense? I do not know the answer.

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