Join Bridge Winners
New Energy
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At atournament in the beautiful Australian outback, I find myself playing this hand.

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

On the lead of the8 (fourth best leads) how do you rate your chances ?

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

The8 suggests that theAQ are offside.

On surface, there appear six potential losers : one spade, two hearts, one diamond and two clubs.

However, on three rounds of clubs, the position would be

North
75
1098654
982
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

If West ruffs with a heart honour, we can discard a spade. Declarer loses only5 tricks : two clubs, 2 hearts and a diamond.

If West ruffs low, we can overruff. With only three hearts outstanding, we rate to lose only two clubs, one heart, a diamond and a spade.

Back to the problem :

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

Is there a stronger defense ?

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

A stronger defense would be for East to win theQ and switch to a diamond.

The play could logically progress

1. Q

2. A

3. A

4. heart, lost

5. K

6. ruff

7. spade switch

We would lose : one diamond, two clubs, one heart, one ruff, and one spade for six tricks.

This would not be a hard sequence of plays to find. So back to the drawing board...

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

On a club lead to theQ and a diamond return, can we do any better ?

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

Working through the possibilities the winning way struck me.

Declarer can win theA and cash theA.

Whether or not a heart honor appears, declarer next plays a club!

Can you see why this is good?

Consider layouts like

West
Q963
Q
K10743
876
North
75
1098654
982
K10
East
K104
K72
65
AQ542
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
15
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
8
10
Q
3
2
0
1
6
A
3
2
3
1
1
A
Q
4
2
3
2
1
9
6
K
A
2
2
2
4

Irrespective of either opponent ruffing clubs or diamonds, the contract is cold.

Declarer will discard a spade on a club winner.

The defence can score only two hearts, two clubs, and a diamond.

These part-score calculations can be a bit tricky sometimes. Just to be sure, I checked it all one more time.

Barring a 4 - 0 heart split, this one seemed to add up.

At the table ...

North
75
1098654
982
K10
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

At the table, the8 lead lost to theA, and a diamond came back.

North
75
1098654
982
K
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J9
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

What now?

North
75
1098654
982
K
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J9
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

This one seemed straightforward.

Win theA, playA, and another.

We would lose two hearts, one diamond, one club, and a spade.

"Weird8 lead," I recall thinking "Pity about all the wasted energy at trick one."

Right?

North
75
1098654
982
K
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J9
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

The suggested line is a mistake. The full hand was :

West
Q63
K10743
Q8762
North
75
1098654
982
K10
East
K1094
KQ72
65
A54
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J93
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
15
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
8
10
A
3
2
0
1
6
A
3
2
3
1
1
A
4
4
2
3
2
1
7 tricks claimed
N/S -100
3

East won and took a diamond ruff.

The defence made three heart tricks to go with their club, diamond, and spade.

Can you spot the winning line?

North
75
1098654
982
K
South
AJ82
AJ3
AQJ
J9
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

The winning play is quite simple.

Win theA, cross to theK and play a heart to the jack.

This is a free safety play to cover the 4- 0 heart split.

West can win a heart honour and offer East a diamond ruff. Declarer can win any return and pull the outstanding trump.

The defensive winners are limited to five : one spade, one heart, one club, one diamond, and one ruff.

Easy or Tough?

As a technical problem, the safety play is not a great challenge. I have navigated similar situations countless times.

The reason for not spotting this one was more psychological.

With all the energy spent at trick one considering the main-line, theA created a sense of complacency.

The contract seemed obvously cold. And a sense of disappointment about the effort invested in that preliminary thinking lingered in the air.

What the hand needed now was not a knowledge of technique but a burst of new energy.

Now that would be a good skill to have.

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