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Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In - Part I
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We are not playing much anymore.  Old age is starting to take its toll - we don't have the stamina or the will to play like we used to.  So, we have cut back, and have not been to a tournament in months.

We got a call from friends in Denver, who would be visiting Cape Cod, and wanted to play in the Rhode Island Regional.  "OK, we'll join you, but only if you don't mind some really sloppy and rusty play on our part."

This is an excellent tournament, nice location, with a large and very strong knockout running Saturday and Sunday.  We committed to the KO, and started with two sloppy warm-up Swiss Teams.  We actually rounded back into form by the time the KO arrived, but the Sloppy Swisses???  So, on the first board, Betty mis-sorted her hand.  Turns out that bidding what she thought she held, rather than what she actually held, didn't fare too well.  Five IMPs away.

I found three very pretty play problems from the week, and I'll let you work through those.  Don't expect great play on our part - the rust showed on all three problems.  Here is the first, from the first Swiss:

Your opponents in this Swiss are unfamiliar, but they are a Flight A team, and have been doing well, so you can assume some competence.  You pick up, at unfavorable colors,

South
A54
32
KQJ82
J94
W
N
E
S
1
1
?

Partner opens a Precision one heart, and the next hand overcalls one spade.  Your call?

 

This is pretty easy.  You have a decent suit, and values, so you bid two diamonds.  

 

The auction continues:

South
A54
32
KQJ82
J94
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
4
?

Again, your call?

Another easy one.  You have absolutely no reason to think that you can set four spades, so you aren't about to double.  You  also have no great offense, and no reason to think you belong at the five level.  So, you aren't going to bid.  That leaves pass.

I know many pairs who would be in a forcing auction, at this vulnerability.  I don't get that.  What magical properties of being vulnerable will generate extra tricks, on either offense or defense?  Fortunately, you don't have any such agreements, and can comfortably pass.  Partner, however, isn't done, and pushes on to five diamonds, and now you get to play.

West leads the spade two (low from odd), and you face:

West
North
9
AKJ1086
A107
Q103
East
South
A54
32
KQJ82
J94
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
J
A
3
1
0
1

East plays the jack, and you win the ace.  Plan the play.

This one is pretty complex.  The simplest approach is to develop tricks from hearts.  You can make the hand easily if both red suits split:  Draw two rounds of trumps, keeping an honor on the table, ruff out the hearts, back to dummy.  Of course, if trumps don't split, you will see that, and can rely on the heart finesse.

That is a pretty reasonable line against silent opponents, but here, facing a four spade call, it is virtually certain that one or both red suits are splitting poorly.

So, maybe we should simply rely on the heart finesse.  Another simple line, with good chances.

Of course, thanks to the club spots, we don't need a third heart trick, provided we can keep control of the hand, and trump both spades in dummy.  Entries are scarce, and the defenders aren't going to help our cause much.

Personally, I really like the line chosen at the table.  Declarer led a club to the queen at trick two.  Defenders are a funny breed - if you ruff a spade, they will work very hard to keep you from trumping your third spade, and getting back and forth, but, when you don't trump a spade, they may decide that you don't want to ruff spades, and play that suit themselves!  Sure enough, East won the club king, and fired back the spade king.  West drops the ten under that - I am sure that means something, but I am too old and too rusty to work it out. 

West
North
9
AKJ1086
A107
Q103
East
South
A54
32
KQJ82
J94
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
J
A
3
1
0
4
7
Q
K
2
1
1
K
4
10
3

 Here is the position before you play from the table, and you will trump this spade.

North
AKJ1086
A107
103
South
5
32
KQJ82
J9

 With which trump?

This is simply a matter of good technique.  You should trump with an honor, and keep the diamond suit fluid.  For instance, you plan on playing a club next.  Suppose West wins this, and tries a trump.  If you have kept the seven on the table, you can win cheaply in hand, trump your last spade, club to hand, and claim.  You won't have that option if you trump this spade with the seven. 

Which, unfortunately, you do. 

Sure enough, West wins the next club with the ace, and leads that trump.  When you are done kicking yourself for your poor play to the previous trick, you get to choose. 

North
AKJ1086
A10
10
South
5
32
KQJ82
J

Do you play the ten from the table, or the ace?

Ten.  It probably doesn't matter, but, if East follows with the nine, you can overtake and trump the last spade.

East, in fact, does not play any trump - he discards the spade six!  Amazing.  Trumps are 5-0.  West, looking at two tricks in, and a sure trump trick, if she continued spades, played a trump instead!  

Dummy is short in a side suit, so we lead trumps, even when doing so is blatantly ridiculous.  These were supposed to be strong players???

My mentor, in my college days, used to sneer at me, and say, "You know, you are allowed, when you are defending, to look at your own hand!"

What now?

Not much choice any more.  We have to cash the other trump, enter our hand, hopefully, with the club jack, draw the trumps, and hope for some luck in hearts.  West started with three spades, and five diamonds.  West must follow to the third club for us to have a chance, so won't have more than one or two hearts.  We had better hope those hearts include the queen.

You cash the diamond ace (spade seven on your right), come to hand, and draw the trumps:

West
North
9
AKJ1086
A107
Q103
East
South
A54
32
KQJ82
J94
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
J
A
3
1
0
4
7
Q
K
2
1
1
K
4
10
7
1
2
1
3
2
9
A
0
2
2
3
10
6
2
1
3
2
A
7
8
4
1
4
2
10
5
J
8
3
5
2
K
5
6
8
3
6
2
Q
6
8
6
3
7
2
J
9
10
Q
3
8
2
2
11

Then you lead a heart, but East has the guarded heart queen and claims down one.  Unlucky, yes?

Not exactly, for this was the full hand: 

West
1032
54
96543
A87
North
9
AKJ1086
A107
Q103
East
KQJ876
Q97
K652
South
A54
32
KQJ82
J94
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
J
A
3
1
0
4
7
Q
K
2
1
1
K
4
10
7
1
2
1
3
2
9
A
0
2
2
3
10
6
2
1
3
2
A
7
8
4
1
4
2
10
5
J
8
3
5
2
K
5
6
8
3
6
2
Q
6
8
6
3
7
2
J
9
10
Q
3
8
2
2
11

West, by dropping the spade ten, left East in sole control of the suit, and East had been squeezed.  Your spade five was high.  Which, of course, you knew, right?

Nah, we weren't paying attention either. 

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