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Technique
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The hands that qualify for newspaper and Internet columns often have an underlying theme of either brilliance or disaster. Top declarers treat each hand with respect and many thoughtful plays never make it into the spotlight. The care and effort invested in such hands is its own reward. That care is what is called technique.

I was kibitzing the Bermuda Bowl and the following hand played by Michael Rosenberg showed technique in action.

North
AK43
KJ87
Q8
1094
South
Q10
A953
K1097653
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

The defense leads a club to the King, ruffed. What now ?

North
AK43
KJ87
Q8
109
South
Q10
A95
K1097653
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

A recurring theme in situations with delicate trump fits is the establishment of the side suit. If the heart fit were 5-4, declarer would play at least one round of trumps. Here, the possibility of losing trump control is a real threat and the situation calls for setting up the side suit first.

Choosing this strategy, declarer played a diamond to the queen losing to the ace. Another club came back, ruffed.

North
AK43
KJ87
8
10
South
Q10
A9
K109765
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

The side suit has still not been established while the threat to trump control is still live and real. We need to setup diamonds.

We could play for diamonds to be either 2-2 or 3-1. What is the best shot here ?

North
AK43
KJ87
8
10
South
Q10
A9
K109765
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

West might have led a singleton diamond if they were 3-1 so the chances of them splitting 2-2 look good. However, East might hold a singleton diamond and there is a simple way of negotiating that risk.

Declarer crossed to the A and led a diamond catering to a hypothetical singleton in East's hand. If East ruffs, declarer now rates to have the trump control to enjoy his diamonds. If he pitches, declarer might fall back on cross-ruff lines or continue on the diamond setup plan.

East followed and declarer played the King and found the suit splitting.

North
K43
KJ87
10
South
Q
A9
109765
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Great ! The side suit has been setup, it must be time to draw trump.

How best to play trumps ?

North
K43
KJ87
10
South
Q
A9
109765
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

The time has come to count our tricks. If trumps split 3-2, we could play three rounds of trumps and all the defense makes is the trump queen, a club and a diamond. Alternately, we could take a trump finesse which would see us making overtricks.

Playing for overtricks at the risk of jeopardizing the contract is a definite no-no. Declarer focused instead on the likelihood of a 4-1 trump split.

Can you see how best to negotiate that threat ?

The best approach is to play K and A ending in the South hand.

North
K43
J8
10
South
Q
109765
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Now play a winning diamond discarding a club. The defence can, at best, ruff that and now we can claim if trumps were 3-2. 

On the real hand, trumps split 4-1 with East having four but the defence did not have a useful countermove. East tried another club but declarer could ruff, cross to the Q and play another diamond winner, discarding the last losing spade from dummy. Making four.

Note how crucial it was to cash the heart honours in the correct order. If declarer had cashed the A first and then played a heart, the defense always prevails as the A was a crucial entry to the long diamond suit.

The full hand was 

West
J8752
6
J4
Q8765
North
AK43
KJ87
Q8
1094
East
96
Q1042
A2
AKJ32
South
Q10
A953
K1097653
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
12
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Impressed ?

Possibly not.

For there is nothing fancy in the execution. Yet according this level of care and effort to each hand is what distinguishes the very best performers from the may-have-beens. 

I appreciated the hand. Hope you did too. 

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