Join Bridge Winners
Overruff Or Not?
(Page of 10)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have to decide whether to enter the bidding with a fair hand.

None vul, South deals. As West, you hold:

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
W
N
E
S
1
?

Your call?

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
W
N
E
S
1
?

You have good values, but there is no convenient call. A takeout double with a doubleton in the other major is a no-no, and your hand is a king light for a 1NT overcall. You have no choice but to pass and await developments.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
?

2: Transfer to hearts, showing 5+ hearts. Might be weak.

Your call?

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
?

You do have a doubleton heart, and if you pass the auction might die here. Still, you are only 4-3 in the minors and most of your strength is in the enemy suits. While passing might result in an adverse double part-score swing, it is more likely that either 2 isn't making or you can't make anything. A takeout double could be very bad if the hand is a misfit.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
?

Your call?

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
?

Once again, the odds favor silence. The opponents don't appear to have a great fit, and you probably don't either.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

Your lead. Standard honor leads. Third and fifth if leading a side suit. Trump leads tend to be suit-preference.

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

The opponents are probably in a 5-2 fit. Dummy may be short in a minor, which is an argument for a trump lead. However, a trump lead from this holding is very likely to cost a trick. It isn't worth the risk just on the speculation of ruffs in dummy.

You could lead a passive diamond. However, the heart lead looks better. It is just as safe, and directly starts to establish a trick and/or start a force on declarer's possibly shaky trump holding. In addition you have a doubleton heart, so you may be in position to do some overruffing. Dummy does have a heart suit, but that doesn't mean it is a strong suit.

You lead the king of hearts:

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
North
J7
A10952
3
KQ873
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

Dummy wins the ace of hearts. Partner plays the 4, and declarer the 6. Partner's card is defined as suit-preference. 10, 9, 8 by priority are suit-preference high. 2, 3, 4 by priority are suit-preference low. 6, 5, 7 are by priority encouraging. If partner doesn't have a spot he can afford in the desired category, he gives what he considers to be the least damaging signal. If he has two spots in a category, the stronger spot says that this is the signal he wants to give while the weaker spot says he can't give the signal he wants to give.

At trick 2, declarer leads a diamond from dummy. Partner plays the 4 (UDCA), declarer the queen, and you the 2. Now declarer leads the 6. Do you win or duck?

West
K1053
Q
876
A54
North
J7
10952
KQ873
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

What do you know about the hand? Partner played his smallest diamond, so it appears that declarer has 4 diamonds. You can assume that declarer has only 5 spades, since it is hard to imagine you have a chance to defeat the contract if he has 6 spades. Declarer doesn't have 3 hearts, or he would have gone back to hearts. His club play isn't consistent with him holding 3 clubs, and if that is the case you don't have much of a chance. You can figure declarer to be 5-2-4-2.

What can you make of partner's 4 at trick 1? Ostensibly that is suit-preference for clubs, but you know he can't mean that. It is his least damaging signal for a signal he can't make. Most likely is that he wanted to give a suit-preference signal for diamonds but doesn't have the 8 or can't afford to play it. J743 would be a consistent holding.

From your hypothetical count of declarer's hand, it has to be right to duck this trick.

You play the 5. Dummy's king wins, partner playing the 9. Declarer leads a heart from dummy. Partner plays the 3, declarer the 8, and you win your queen. What do you play?

West
K1053
876
A4
North
J7
1095
Q873
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

It is clear to shift to a trump. Declarer wants to ruff diamonds in dummy. Also, it is necessary to get the trumps off dummy before declarer can lead another club up and set up dummy's queen of clubs. Partner will need a trump honor for you to have a chance.

You lead the 3. It goes jack, queen, ace. Declarer plays ace of diamonds and ruffs a diamond, partner playing the 9 and 10.

Declarer now leads the 10 off dummy. Partner covers with the jack, and declarer discards the jack of diamonds. What do you play?

West
K105
7
A4
North
1095
Q87
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

You must discard your diamond so partner can put his king of diamonds through declarer with you threatening to overruff. If you discard a club, partner either has to lead a losing heart allowing declarer to discard his losing club while you ruff or lead a club to your ace and you can no longer threaten an overruff.

You discard a diamond. Partner leads the king of diamonds. Declarer discards a club, as do you. Now partner leads a heart, and declarer ruffs with the 6. Do you overruff or not?

West
K105
A
North
95
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

You need 3 of the last 4 tricks. Partner has 1 spade left, but you don't know whether it is the 9, 8, 4, or 2.

If partner has the 9, you will always get 3 trump tricks whether you overruff or not. This is also true if he has the 8. If you overruff and lead the ace of clubs declarer gets a small ruff, but he will have 94 of spades left and be end-played. If you discard, declarer is end-played immediately and you will score your 5.

Things are more interesting if partner has the 4 or 2 left. If you overruff, you have no chance. Declarer will ruff your ace of clubs with his small spade, and he will get another trick from his remaining 98 of spades.

If you discard the ace of clubs, you have a chance. Declarer can make if he exits with the 9 or 8, as you will be end-played. However, if partner's remaining spade is the 10 or K, this play will lose the last 3 tricks as partner leads a club through and you trump coup declarer. On this layout, declarer needs to exit with a small spade, which would not be a success on the actual layout. Declarer should go right simply on percentages, as there are more honor-small than honor-honor holdings partner might have initially held. But you do force declarer to make the right play.

You overruff and lead ace of clubs. Declarer has the 98, and scores 2 more tricks to make the contract. The full hand is:

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
North
J7
A10952
3
KQ873
East
Q4
J743
K1094
J92
South
A9862
86
AQJ5
106
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
4
6
1
1
0
3
4
Q
2
3
2
0
6
5
K
9
1
3
0
2
3
8
Q
0
3
1
3
J
Q
A
3
4
1
A
6
3
9
3
5
1
5
8
7
10
1
6
1
10
J
J
7
2
6
2
K
10
4
7
2
6
3
7
6
10
5
0
6
4
A
8
2
2
3
7
4
11

How might declarer have improved his play?

West
K1053
KQ
8762
A54
North
J7
A10952
3
KQ873
East
Q4
J743
K1094
J92
South
A9862
86
AQJ5
106
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
4
6
1
1
0
3
4
Q
2
3
2
0
6
5
K
9
1
3
0
2
3
8
Q
0
3
1
3
J
Q
A
3
4
1
A
6
3
9
3
5
1
5
8
7
10
1
6
1
10
J
J
7
2
6
2
K
10
4
7
2
6
3
7
6
10
5
0
6
4
A
8
2
2
3
7
4
11

This is a complicated hand. Declarer's start of winning the opening lead and taking a diamond finesse looks okay. If the finesse loses declarer has set up his second diamond trick, and needs only to ruff a diamond in dummy and hold his trump losses to 2 tricks. If the diamond finesse wins that is even better, since declarer will now be threatening to ruff 2 diamonds in dummy and not lose a diamond trick.

After the diamond finesse wins it may look natural to lead a club up, but perhaps that isn't best. Even if the ace of clubs is onside, the defense can break trumps and prevent declarer from taking a second club trick. The danger is that East wins the ace of clubs and returns a trump. Now declarer will have to go up ace or get no diamond ruffs, which will put him in jeopardy. Better is to ruff a diamond and lead the king of clubs. That gets one diamond ruff in declarer's pocket, and the defense will be forced to lead one round of trumps in order to prevent a second diamond ruff. That may leave declarer better placed to lose only 2 trump tricks.

Going up jack of spades was questionable. It is hard to imagine West underleading the KQ here. By playing small declarer will find out where the 10 is, which might be important.

Instead of cashing the ace of diamonds and ruffing a diamond, declarer would have done better to simply ruff a diamond. This would leave him with a diamond tenace over East, so the defense couldn't play any more diamonds. Now when declarer leads the 10 off dummy and East covers, declarer can discard his club and the defense can't damage him. If East plays another heart declarer discards his jack of diamonds while West ruffs with the potential trump trick. If East plays a club, declarer scores that vital small ruff unmolested.

Declarer should have ruffed the king of diamonds with the 6. Now it won't help West to not overruff, since declarer can exit with his last club.

At the other table, North declared 2NT. This might have been defeated, but the defense shifted to clubs establishing declarer's club suit and allowing the contract to make.

We all know that there are various positions where it is advantageous to refuse to overruff. This deal is a good illustration of that principle.

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