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The Pesky Trump Spot

Going back through my hand records and notes from Louisville I remembered this interesting hand from the Regional Pairs on the second Friday afternoon, where I partnered Andrew Gumperz.

On board 12, I was faced with an interesting problem (hands rotated):

South
AQ75
KQ75432
74
W
N
E
S
3
?

 

 

 

My choices seemed to be 4 and Double. 4 risks possibly losing the spade suit; however, at this vulnerability, it was likely that LHO was going to raise hearts, leaving me well-placed to back in with a spade bid. The problem with this plan is if partner raises before I can show my spades. In that case, I'll have to just hope that we didn't miss a spade fit.  Oh, the things matchpoints will do to you.

Double seems significantly more flawed since not only will we be forced to guess on the later rounds of bidding, but, if partner bids clubs, we are left with no good solution. Pulling a club call would show a lot more values, and passing seems absurd. Therefore I went with a 4 call.  LHO duly bid 4, and partner doubled, which is more value-showing and co-operative than penalty. I had a comfortable 4 bid now, which ended the auction. The lead was a small heart, plan the play:

LEAD: 2

North
KJ84
KJ5
8
QJ1093
South
AQ75
KQ75432
74
W
N
E
S
3
4
4
X
P
4
P
P
P

 

 

 

I couldn't afford to lose anything other than two clubs and one diamond.  Therefore, I had to set up diamonds. The trouble is that I could easily be tapped in hand, which would prevent me from drawing trump and establishing the diamonds safely.

 

I played the jack from dummy, covered by the queen, and ruffed in hand. Then came the K from hand, won by LHO's Ace.  Another heart came back, ruffed. At this point I was down to a doubleton trump and the diamonds weren't yet established. My best shot at this point seemed to be a diamond pitching the K to prevent myself from being tapped again, and try to set up clubs and diamonds at the same time. So, I played the Q followed by a small club, won by RHO, who returned another club to his partner's King. The following ending was reached: (follow the remainder of the play with the next button)

West
1062
862
AJ9
K652
North
KJ84
KJ5
8
QJ1093
East
93
AQ109743
106
A8
South
AQ75
KQ75432
74
W
N
E
S
3
4
4
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
J
Q
5
3
1
0
K
A
8
6
0
1
1
8
5
10
7
3
2
1
Q
9
K
10
3
3
1
4
2
Q
A
2
3
2
8
7
K
3
0
3
3
J
J
3
2
1
4
3
4
3
A
2
3
5
3
Q
6
8
9
3
6
3
9

At this point, I led diamonds through my LHO. If he discards, I discard as well; if he ruffs with the last trump, I overruff and have good clubs in dummy. This line looked nice, and was quite fun to execute.  However, as the cards lie, the defense could have beaten me. Do you see how?

 

The defense should play back a heart when they get in with a club.  Playing a heart seems like a bad play, since it gives a ruff-sluff and allows me to discard my club loser.  However, LHO still has clubs guarded and I need to set up clubs to make my contract (setting up diamonds doesn't work because I lack entries after trumps are drawn).  So the ruff/sluff doesn't cost a trick, but my communications are wrecked. I have two choices on a heart return:

1. Ruff in Hand:

West
1062
862
AJ9
K652
North
KJ84
KJ5
8
QJ1093
East
93
AQ109743
106
A8
South
AQ75
KQ75432
74
W
N
E
S
3
4
4
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
J
Q
5
3
1
0
K
A
8
6
0
1
1
8
5
10
7
3
2
1
Q
9
K
10
3
3
1
4
2
Q
A
2
3
2
A
Q
6
3
3
4
2
6

After ruffing, I cannot safely play a diamond, because my LHO's Txx will be promoted as my trump spots are not good enough. I cannot play a club because LHO wins and returns a minor, creating the same situation. RHO's 9 is a huge pain, and I will finish down two because of the trump blockage. Ruffing with the ace is no help either, since the trump are still hopelessly blocked.

To salvage down 1, I need to play a trump, then exit a diamond. LHO's T will still be promoted, but it will be his only additional trick.

2. Ruff in Dummy:

West
1062
862
AJ9
K652
North
KJ84
KJ5
8
QJ1093
East
93
AQ109743
106
A8
South
AQ75
KQ75432
74
W
N
E
S
3
4
4
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
J
Q
5
3
1
0
K
A
8
6
0
1
1
8
5
10
7
3
2
1
Q
9
K
10
3
3
1
4
2
Q
A
2
3
2
A
7
6
4
1
4
2
6

After ruffing, if I draw trump, LHO will score the J for his fourth trick after getting on lead with the K. If, instead of drawing trump, I play a club off dummy, I am still down: if I ruff, then LHO's trump is promoted; if I discard, he wins and plays a minor-suit card to create the same ending as in option 1. No matter what, I finish down one.

But I didn't have to get into a position where a heart ruff/sluff would kill the contract.  Can you see where I went wrong?

 

 

 

I played the Q too soon. Cashing a second round of diamonds sets up a potential trump promotion for the defense and, as we've just seen, eliminating the heart suit doesn't prevent the killing defense of a heart ruff/sluff. Because I needed trumps to be 3-2 I could still withstand one more heart tap in hand, as long as the defense didn't get a trump promotion. Therefore, instead of cashing the Q, I needed to play a club. Whichever opponent won could return another heart but I would be able to ruff in hand arriving at one of the following positions:

West
1062
J9
K65
North
KJ84
QJ103
East
93
10743
10
8
South
A
Q75432
7
D
West
1062
J9
652
North
KJ84
QJ109
East
93
10743
10
A
South
A
Q75432
7
D


In the first position East won the first round of clubs with the ace. At this point I can cash the A and (since East still has a diamond left) ruff a low diamond in dummy, draw trump, and play the Q. West will be forced to either concede the rest of the tricks to dummy's clubs or my diamonds.

In the second position West won the first club with the king. Here I can merely cash the A and play a club. East will win his ace but that will be the last trick for the defense.

Retaining the Q succeeds whenever my original line does, and has the satisfying quality of not requiring a defensive error.

 

That pesky 9 is the key to this hand. Because RHO holds it, once I play the Q I am down on correct defense, which gives rise to a few neat endings. If I held the 9 in dummy, or in hand, 4 would make without much trouble.  Fortunately the defenders missed the correct defense at the table and I made 4.  However, I think this defense should have been found, and I should have found the winning play as well.

Oh well, I'm sure I'll manage these types of hands more carefully in the future!

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