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Senior KOs Third Quarter
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At the halfway point of the Denver Senior KOs, MELTZER (Meltzer-Mohan, Garner-Smith, Morse-Sutherlin) trailed KASLE (Kasle-Koslove, Chambers-Schermer, Jacobus-Passell).  Most of the boards in the third quarter were quiet, with Meltzer winning the over-and-undertrick battle, 4-3.  Three boards, however, generated swings, and all three went to Meltzer, who pulled within one IMP.  These three swings might easily have gone the other way.

Test out your third-quarter game on these problems:

(1)

West
North
AQ765
973
K2
Q94
East
South
8
K6
A876
KJ10652
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
4
A
3
1
0
8
2
Q
4
1
2
0
A
9
6
3
1
3
0
3

West leads the diamond queen, standard honor leads and carding.  With the heart ace likely offside, you will need a spade finesse, so you win in hand, play a spade to the queen and dump a heart on the spade ace.  So far, so good.  Now what?

(2) With both sides vulnerable, you deal yourself:

North
KJ9
Q3
J9
QJ6532
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
?

3 promised some values, via Lebensohl, and that may have goaded partner forward.  Still, you are pretty good for a passed hand.  Are you content with 3NT, or do you pull?  If so, to 4?  5?

(3)

West
North
KJ9
Q3
J9
QJ6532
East
South
A85
AK65
A7
A1087
W
N
E
S
P
P
2NT
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
Q
7
5
1
1
0
1

West leads the heart jack against your club slam.  North wins the queen as East plays the 7, upside down carding.  Plan the play.

(4)

West
North
AQ107632
83
K7
Q9
East
K4
1096
Q963
AJ84
South
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
9
J
3
2
0
1
1

Partner leads a third/low 7 against 4, and your jack wins.  Plan the defense.

Right or wrong, you judge to cash a second club: 2, 5, Q.  Now what?

(1)

West
North
AQ765
973
K2
Q94
East
South
8
K6
A876
KJ10652
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
4
A
3
1
0
8
2
Q
4
1
2
0
A
9
6
3
1
3
0
3

This hand looks very easy now, unless there are some really foul splits.  Simply cash the diamond king, trump a spade low (and thank West for not dropping the king on the second round), trump a diamond low, a spade high, if necessary, and trump the last diamond.

At the table, you have an odd blindspot, and just miss this line, ruffing a spade before cashing the second diamond.  Suddenly, you are in trouble.  You cross, belatedly, to the diamond, and trump out the last spade high, as West discards a heart.

West
North
AQ765
973
K2
Q94
East
South
8
K6
A876
KJ10652
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
4
A
3
1
0
8
2
Q
4
1
2
0
A
9
6
3
1
3
0
5
10
2
K
3
4
0
6
3
K
5
1
5
0
6
J
J
8
3
6
0
6

Here is the position, now:

North
7
973
Q94
South
K
87
K1065

Can you still make the hand?  Time to take stock.

We know that West started with three spades and five hearts, and, presumably, still has the diamond jack left, so West was either 3-5-3-2,  3-5-4-1, or 3-5-5-0.

If trumps are 2-2, the hand should be easy, and there are several ways home.  Simplest is to trump a diamond and exit a heart.  To stop the other diamond ruff, the defenders must draw trumps, but then you get to enjoy that good spade.  The hand is hopeless if trumps are 0-4.  What if West started with only one club?  Perhaps the ending will look like this:

West
AQ52
J10
8
North
7
973
Q94
East
J104
9
A73
South
K
87
K1065
D

We prevail by trumping a diamond low, and leading the spade.  If East discards, throw the heart king.  West will trump, but won't have another trump to play, and you get to trump your diamond.  If East ruffs instead, over-ruff high, and trump your diamond.  With trumps now 1-2, there won't be any problems. 

So, it looks like we have to guess whether West started with three or four diamonds.  We can delay our decision until after trumping a diamond low on the table.  Obviously, if the jack doesn't appear, we know the count.  

Suppose on that diamond, West plays the jack and East the ten.  Who has the missing 9?

Not clear, but I would bet on East.  West can't know that he could afford to drop the jack from J9 in the ending.

Okay, what if we see jack and nine?

 

Tougher, without much to go on.  The biggest guide here is East's signal at trick one.  Most defenders would encourage automatically holding the diamond ten, and might even signal with the ten holding 10954.  East's play of the 4, 5, 9, seems very much like a player with no ten.  The full hand was, in fact,

West
K32
AQ852
QJ103
8
North
AQ765
973
K2
Q94
East
J1094
J104
954
A73
South
8
K6
A876
KJ10652
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The declarer went for the 2-2 trump split, and failed.  This cost 6 IMPs when North, for Meltzer, passed 3 after the same start.  It could easily have been 10 IMPs the other way.

(2)

North
KJ9
Q3
J9
QJ6532
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
?

Partner seems to have doubt about notrump.  If partner is worried, then so am I.  It feels like we have only one diamond stopper, and likely a doubleton in each hand.  Diamonds will be set up after the lead.  Can we really grab the next eight when I have no key cards for clubs?

I am running.  Where to is tougher.  Partner could obviously have a hand like Qxxx AKx Kx Kxxx, where we are off three aces.  Of course, partner might just as well hold Qxxx AKx Ax Kxxx, and would pass 4, with 5 a great contract.  I'm a 4 bidder, but 5 could easily win the day.  3NT, on either hand, would be three down quickly.  

(3)

West
North
KJ9
Q3
J9
QJ6532
East
South
A85
AK65
A7
A1087
W
N
E
S
P
P
2NT
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
Q
7
5
1
1
0
1

Well bid!  This is an excellent slam, and, since we escaped a diamond lead, we need only one of two finesses.  Could we do even better than that?

Maybe.  We could start with a club to the ace.  If both follow small, we eliminate the red suits, and exit in trumps, to let them break spades.  Even if this elimination plan fails, we will still have the spade hook.

So, which is better?

Both plans work if the spade queen is onside, so let's assume that is off.  Then the two-finesse line is simply 50-50.  The elimination line is harder to estimate.  I will assume that West started with the jack and ten of hearts, and any possible combination of the other five hearts.

The elimination works immediately if either player has a singleton king of trumps - 26%.  We will endplay West successfully if West started with a doubleton king of clubs - 26%, the 10, and at least three hearts.  Club ace, heart ace and king, throwing a diamond, heart ruff, diamond ace, diamond ruff, club.  Just a tad under 13%.

If East started with the doubleton king of clubs, this line won't work unless East follows to all four rounds of hearts.  So East will need to hold four or five of those five missing hearts.  That is only around 16% of those doubleton kings.  Even worse, the 7 doesn't seem consistent with any such holding.  So, the elimination line falls far short of the 50-50 finesse line.  

You should take two finesses.

The full hand:

West
1076
J10942
863
K9
North
KJ9
Q3
J9
QJ6532
East
Q432
87
KQ10542
4
South
A85
AK65
A7
A1087
W
N
E
S
P
P
2NT
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
Q
7
5
1
1
0
1

Turns out, the elimination line works, while both finesses lose.  Oh well.  For Meltzer, declarer chose the two-finesse line.  Unlucky?

Yes, until West won the trump and played a spade!

Why?  Well, little was known about the hand, and partner could easily hold a side ace.  Could that ace go away?

Declarer might hold a hand like AQxx AKx Kx A10xx, and throw both diamonds away.  This seems unlikely.  Partner might have done something in second seat with such a good diamond suit, and declarer might have opted to lead to the club ace, with discards in reserve holding such a hand.

A more dangerous scenario is possible - if declarer held a hand like Qx AKx AK10x A10xx, all three spades could go away.  West was concerned about this hand.  Trouble is, this gives partner three hearts, the 876, and partner would play the 8, not the 7.  

 

This hand, of course, is the bidding problem (2), with the 2 opening that confronted Kasle's pair.  North passed 3NT, down two, and 17 huge IMPs to Meltzer.  Had North pulled to 4, he'd have played in 5, limiting the loss to 13 IMPs.  A 5 call would have gotten to six.  

Interestingly enough, on the obvious diamond king lead, declarer can't afford an immediate club finesse, and might well have found the winning elimination line.  This could very easily have been a slam swing the other way!

 

(4)

West
North
AQ107632
83
K7
Q9
East
K4
1096
Q963
AJ84
South
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
9
J
3
2
0
1
1

Partner clearly led from the K107 of clubs, but you can't tell, yet, whether partner started with three, four, or six clubs.  Defensive prospects are pretty grim if declarer holds a singleton club, so we should assume that partner has three or four clubs.  Partner will have another card as well - solid hearts and the diamond ace is not an invite, so the obvious defense is simply to shift to trumps and stop the club ruff. 

With spades under control, I can't see any hurry to try any other defense.

However, both defenders cashed a second club.  To be fair, Kasle's crew faced a fourth-best 5 lead, and expected partner to hold five clubs, not four.  

After this poor start, the defense became very tricky.  We know that partner will hold four clubs and one side card.  If declarer started with a doubleton in spades, there is no worry.  If declarer started with seven hearts, we've already blown the defense, so we can place declarer with a 1-6-3-3 shape.  At this point, it seems crucial to figure out which side card partner holds.  

Case 1:  Trump ace.

West
J98
A4
J852
K1075
North
AQ107632
83
K7
Q9
East
K4
1096
Q963
AJ84
South
5
KQJ752
A104
632
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
9
J
3
2
0
1
A
2
5
Q
2
0
2
2

If we play back either minor suit, declarer will trump both losers on the table.  Here, we have one last chance to play a trump. 

Case 2:  Diamond ace.

West
J98
54
A1082
K1075
North
AQ107632
83
K7
Q9
East
K4
1096
Q963
AJ84
South
5
AKQJ72
J54
632
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
9
J
3
2
0
1
A
2
5
Q
2
0
2
2

Here, a trump return lets declarer set up spades - trump ace, spade ace, spade ruff, club ruff, spade ruff, draw trumps, diamond.  If this is the layout, we must attack North's entries.  Best would be to play a diamond, ducked all around.  Partner might not find that defense, so it might be more practical simply to continue clubs.  That, in theory, would let declarer guess out the spades, but, in practice, declarer will settle for a spade finesse, and go down one.  

Well, on a strict probability bet, partner's one card is more likely to be in diamonds than hearts.  However, the trump play would be just as effective if partner held the heart king, rather than the heart ace.  Moreover, suppose this were the full hand:

West
J98
J4
A1082
K1075
North
AQ107632
83
K7
Q9
East
K4
1096
Q963
AJ84
South
5
AKQ752
J54
632
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
9
J
3
2
0
1
A
2
5
Q
2
0
2
2

Without solid hearts, the winning line needs miracles - you would have to hold exactly two spades and three hearts to avoid a trump promotion.  A trump shift might let the contract through, but, in practice, declarer will simply draw trumps and lead a spade to the queen.

This seems very, very close to me.  My guess - a trump.  Team KASLE chose the trump, Team MELTZER a third club.  The actual hand was Case 2, with the solid trumps, and another 10 IMPs ran to MELTZER.  

 

Three swing boards, and 33 IMPs to MELTZER.  With a few different decisions, KASLE might have added another 26 IMPs to its lead on these boards.  

It was an exciting quarter. 

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