Join Bridge Winners
The Little Trumps
(Page of 11)

In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials, you have to decide what to do with a stack in the enemy trump suit.

E-W vul, South deals. As East, you hold:

East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
?

3: Limit raise or better

Double of 3 by you is defined as lead-directing.

Your call?

East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
?

While a heart lead giving you a ruff is probably okay, it isn't clear whether this will be good or bad for the defense. You won't mind a lead of either minor suit. It should be okay to leave partner on his own to lead what he thinks is best.

There is one other consideration. You know that partner is void in spades. Even though a double by you is defined as lead-directing rather than support, partner will be thinking you have an honor in hearts. The last thing you want is for partner to be bidding more hearts. You don't want to rock the boat here. Quietly passing is clear.

You pass. The auction continues:

W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
?

Your call?

East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
?

The opponents are getting a very bad split, and your trumps are strong. Partner did overcall vul vs. not, so while he might be light he should have something decent. He has hearts covered, and you have the minors well taken care of. It doesn't look like they are going to make, and they could easily go down 2.

On the other hand, you didn't exactly push them to 3. They got there on their own with an invitational auction. One or both of them might be stretching a bit, but they did go to 3 voluntarily. Parner is void in spades which might have prompted him to make a light overcall. The opponents might have some annoying distribution.

One other important factor is that the double might help declarer play the hand. If you double, he will know that you have a trump stack and probably all the missing trumps. He would find this out anyway as soon as he played trumps, but if he goes into the hand knowing about the 5-0 split that may lead him to a winning line of play which he would otherwise not find. It isn't just the difference of being -530 instead of -140. It might be the difference between being -530 and +50.

All things considered, the odds on the double don't look so good. The opponents aren't vulnerable, so you need to set them 2 tricks for the double to show a meaningful gain. It could happen, but it doesn't seem likely.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

Partner leads the 4. 3rd and low leads.

North
842
J97
K104
AK108
East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

Dummy wins the ace of clubs. You play the 3, and declarer the 6.

What do you think declarer will be playing from dummy at trick 2?

As you might expect, declarer leads a small trump from dummy. Were you prepared? What do you play?

North
842
J97
K104
K108
East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

Assuming partner has 6 hearts for his overcall, the opening lead and play to trick 1 indicate that declarer's shape is 5-4-2-2 and partner's shape is 0-6-3-4. Partner probably has either two heart honors or the ace of diamonds and one heart honor. If he has more South wouldn't have had an opening bid, and if he has less he wouldn't have anything resembling a 2 overcall.

You know the spade position. If you play small, declarer will certainly put in the 9. If you play an honor, he will win the ace.

The general idea in this sort of a trump stack position is to score the little trumps. You don't want to let declarer score his little trumps. If you play low you let him score his 9, which may put him a step ahead of you. By splitting, you give yourself control of the trump suit. You don't have to worry about declarer being about to outspot you with his 6. At worst you can eventually play on one of the minors and force declarer to ruff. What you don't want is for declarer to score his little trumps. Splitting is thematically correct.

There is one very important point here. Often you need to make a fairly quick decision as second hand, since if you go into the tank that will give your hand away. On this hand, it should be clear that East can afford to stop and think. Declarer is going to find out about the spade split anyway. If East plays low declarer will be putting in the 9 regardless of how long East thinks -- there is no way declarer will ever finesse the 6. Thus, you can afford to take your time before following.

You choose to play the 5. Declarer plays the 9, and partner discards the 3 (UDCA). Declarer leads the 3. Partner plays the 5, dummy the king, and you the 7. Declarer leads the 4 off dummy. How do you defend?

North
84
J97
104
K108
East
KQ107
QJ96
QJ
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

Apparently partner has Axx of diamonds along with something in hearts. It looks like declarer is trying to score his small trumps. He is hoping the defense wins and continues diamonds. Partner might not have the right picture of the hand. In order to make sure diamonds aren't continued, you should win this trick.

If you want to make sure you win the trick, the best way to do this is to play the queen of diamonds. If you play anything else, partner will be able to work out that you have QJ and that he can afford to overtake. But if you play the queen, presumably denying the jack, he will not overtake.

You play the queen of diamonds. Declarer follows with the 8, and partner the 2. What do you lead now?

North
84
J97
10
K108
East
KQ107
J96
QJ
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

Leading a club looks best. This knocks the last entry out of dummy, and there won't be much declarer can do playing out of his hand for the rest of the deal. Anything else is helpful to declarer as it does his work for him.

You choose to lead the king of spades. Declarer ducks, and partner discards the 5. You are still on lead. Now what?

North
8
J97
10
K108
East
Q107
J96
QJ
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

Once again a club is indicated for all the same reasons. Declarer can win in dummy and take a spade finesse, but when he plays on hearts partner will win and force declarer. You will be able to force him in both clubs and diamonds, so you will remain a trump ahead of him and defeat the contract.

You choose to lead the 10 of spades. Declarer wins the jack, partner discarding the 2. Now declarer leads the 4 from his hand. Partner plays the 8, dummy the 9, and you ruff. Once again you are in. What do you play?

North
J7
10
K108
East
Q
J96
QJ
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P

This is getting serious. It looks like declarer started with AQxx or KQxx of hearts. You have scored a diamond trick and two trump tricks, and if you aren't careful partner's high heart may be your last defensive trick.

Suppose you return a diamond. Declarer ruffs, cashes his ace of spades drawing your last trump, and leads a heart. Partner is out of diamonds, so there will be no way for partner to prevent declarer from scoring 2 heart tricks.

A spade return is equally futile. Declarer simply wins and plays on hearts.

You can still barely survive if you play a club. What can declarer do? If he ruffs a minor to his hand to draw your trump, partner is left with a winning minor-suit card when he gets in with his heart trick. If declarer leads a heart off dummy you can ruff, and partner will eventually score the setting trick.

You wrongly lead a diamond. Declarer ruffs, draws your trump, and plays a heart. Partner wins his king, but declarer has the rest. The full hand is:

West
K108653
A52
7542
North
842
J97
K104
AK108
East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
South
AJ963
AQ42
83
96
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
A
3
6
1
1
0
2
5
9
3
3
2
0
3
5
K
7
1
3
0
4
Q
8
2
2
3
1
K
3
5
4
2
3
2
10
J
2
8
3
4
2
4
8
9
7
2
4
3
J
6
A
10
3
5
3
A
5
8
Q
3
6
3
2
K
10

Could West have helped the defense?

West
K108653
A52
7542
North
842
J97
K104
AK108
East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
South
AJ963
AQ42
83
96
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
A
3
6
1
1
0
2
5
9
3
3
2
0
3
5
K
7
1
3
0
4
Q
8
2
2
3
1
K
3
5
4
2
3
2
10
J
2
8
3
4
2
4
8
9
7
2
4
3
J
6
A
10
3
5
3
A
5
8
Q
3
6
3
2
K
10

West's opening lead was reasonable. He knows the opponents are getting a bad trump split, so simply making a safe lead and waiting for the tricks to come may succeed. East didn't double 3 which he presumably would have done with a heart honor.

Ducking the diamond was correct. Even if declarer had a stiff diamond the trick figured to come back. Going up ace could cost a trick if declarer had Qx or spare declarer a guess if he had Jx.

When declarer led a heart up, West could have gone up king of hearts and played a club. East figured to be void in hearts since he never shifted to a heart, so West had a good picture of the hand. This defense would have been necessary if declarer held the jack of clubs. Of course if declarer had the jack of clubs East would have let West win the ace of diamonds. But West can work out the right defense, so he should take charge.

Could declarer have done better?

West
K108653
A52
7542
North
842
J97
K104
AK108
East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
South
AJ963
AQ42
83
96
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
A
3
6
1
1
0
2
5
9
3
3
2
0
3
5
K
7
1
3
0
4
Q
8
2
2
3
1
K
3
5
4
2
3
2
10
J
2
8
3
4
2
4
8
9
7
2
4
3
J
6
A
10
3
5
3
A
5
8
Q
3
6
3
2
K
10

There is no way declarer can overcome the 5-0 trump split with proper defense. However, after the king of diamonds held, he might have tried a heart off dummy. This lets him pocket the ace of hearts, so the defense can't afford to let declarer score all of his trumps. The defense will have to be careful, tapping declarer a little so declarer can't get extra heart tricks but not tapping him too much.

What do you think of West's overcall?

West
K108653
A52
7542
North
842
J97
K104
AK108
East
KQ1075
QJ976
QJ3
South
AJ963
AQ42
83
96
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
A
3
6
1
1
0
2
5
9
3
3
2
0
3
5
K
7
1
3
0
4
Q
8
2
2
3
1
K
3
5
4
2
3
2
10
J
2
8
3
4
2
4
8
9
7
2
4
3
J
6
A
10
3
5
3
A
5
8
Q
3
6
3
2
K
10

It is pretty light vulnerable. The danger isn't going for a number -- that won't happen very often. The real problem is the third opponent. East might not take a joke and bid some hopeless game. Granted the spade void makes bidding tempting, but discretion is probably better here.

Knowing when you can and cannot afford to think on defense is important. Consider the common situation where declarer in a suit contract wins the opening lead and leads up to a KJ combination in dummy at trick 2. If the opening leader has the ace, he must decide whether or not to duck. If he chooses to duck it could be important to do so quickly, since if he thinks about it declarer won't misguess if that is what the hand is about. But suppose his instincts tell him to go up ace. Now he can afford to think. The point is that if he is playing the ace it won't matter whether he does so quickly or not, since declarer will find out where the ace is anyway. So he might as well take his time. It could be that deeper analysis shows that ducking is the correct theoretical play. The slow duck will lose any deceptive value, but it is still better to make the right play slowly than the wrong play quickly.

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