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Interesting Combination: USBC Final Board 57

On hand 57 from the USBC final, declarer (Justin Lall) in 5 faced an interesting trump-suit combination, which Michael Rosenberg analyzed for the Bridge World in October 2004:

Dummy: 7 JT9 KQJ6 AT653

Declarer: A93 AKQ T98 J874

A spade was led (RHO having doubled a spade splinter.)

There are essentially 3 reasonable options in the club suit:

A: Cash the ace.

B: Lead towards dummy and play the 10 if the 9 shows up, the ace otherwise.  Finesse again on the 2nd round if relevant.

C: Lead towards dummy and cover as cheaply as possible.  Finesse again if relevant.

I won’t go over Michael’s whole analysis, but the opponents ought to play the 9 very often from 92 , Q92 or K92.  If they are reliable falsecarders, plan C is best, but “against almost all humans,” Michael says, plan B is best.

Of course, there is a whole deal to worry about.  If you lose the first round of trumps, there could be a ruff. Also important is that you have severe control issues if trumps are 4-0, even if you go right in the trump suit.  You’ll still only make 5 with a lucky diamond layout.  The 4-0 break is, in the abstract,  a major winning case for plan C, so the fact that it’s not really a winning case on this hand makes it a two-horse race between A and B.

On the actual hand, Hampson followed with the 2, Justin went up with the ace, and Greco showed out. Ultimately the result was down 2. The actual layout bears out Justin’s plan, in a funny way. Winning the first round of trumps with the 4 would have thrilled the vugraph fans for a minute, but the contract would still be down. When LHO won his trump trick, he would play another spade, and now with just one trump in each hand declarer would be sunk whether he drew the last trump or not. This was just another quietly accurate play by the Bathurst team, of hundreds on the path to victory, though not one that was rewarded.  Diamond won 2 IMPs for an inferior 3nt contract which went down only 1.

I’m curious what Justin's plan was if the 9 had made an appearance.  For purists, it’s sort of a shame that the trump control issues entered into the play of this pretty suit combination.

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