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Too Much Credit
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Playing in a knock-out competition, I went off in a game that I should have made. 

The auction was not a thing of beauty, and we ended in the wrong spot:

North
A2
A6
AQ6
QJ10765
South
QJ1086
2
J103
A432
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
X
4
P
P
X
P
4
P
P
P

North's 1 included all 18-19 balanced hands.  Double of 1 was a 'normal' 1 response i.e. 4 or more spades.  West's 2 was described as 'his weakest raise' (unsurprisingly).  North had an awkward call over 2.  He could have bid 3 'good' but that feels like a poor description; instead he doubled which is usually 3-card spade support but may be 18-19 balanced.  The club fit got buried, and the superior 5 contract was missed.  

It's possible East gave some consideration to bidding over 4 in the pass out seat, but East was not a fast player and gave a lot of consideration to most actions (although the 4 bid was very quick).

West led the jack of hearts, playing standard leads, and I won with the ace and made what seemed like the normal play of trying the queen of clubs from dummy. East discarded a heart, and I won the ace and played a second club which West took.

I wasn't expecting West to give his partner a club ruff, because that was obviously unlikely to beat the contract. West thought for quite a long time, and eventually switched to a low diamond.

I thought for even longer.

Suppose the hand looked like this:

West
73
J108
97542
K98
North
A2
A6
AQ6
QJ10765
East
K954
KQ97543
K8
South
QJ1086
2
J103
A432
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
X
4
P
P
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
A
3
2
1
1
0
Q
4
A
8
3
2
0
2
K
5
5
0
2
1
2
4

I can make the contract by the simple line of rising with the ace of diamonds and playing ace and another spade, losing a diamond, a club and a spade.

That hand is completely consistent with the auction.  It gives East a healthy 4 bid, and West a very weak raise.

The danger of this line, however, is that goes off when West has either the king of spades or the king of diamonds, as now he has an entry to give East a club ruff (East is almost certain to have at least three spades).

Give West a 3343 or 2353 with two kings and the J10 of hearts and it is still not really worth a 'good raise'.  East is more likely to be thinking of saving with fewer high cards.

Overall, I think it is probably right to play East for both kings and win the ace of diamonds.

But....

West knows a lot about the hand.  Suppose he has the hand I suggest - 2353 with no more high cards.  He got a count signal at trick 1 (I think) so he knows his partner has 7 hearts - which he probably expected from the auction anyway.

He switched to a low diamond, so he knows it isn't possible to set up two diamond tricks if his partner has the KJ - I can just duck in dummy (or rise with the ace).

He knows that, if the contract is beatable, that his partner must have a trump trick. If it's Qxxx or Jxxx then the contract is just making if I am 5134.  If I have 6 spades I only have 3 red suit cards and again, it's just cold.  And with a 6124 I am likely to have bid 4 over 4.

If I have only five spades and East has Kxxx or QJxx in spades, however, then simply playing a second heart beats the contract by force as I lose control. A diamond lets it through.

West is a seriously world-class player who is a former winner of the Bermuda Bowl and has also won a number of US Nationals.  Surely he is capable of working all of this out?

Eventually I decided that it should be obvious to West that a second heart would beat the contract whenever it was beatable, and that trumps must be 3-3 all along.  I put in the queen of diamonds, it lost to the king, a heart came back and I eventually went three off playing for spades to break.  I was right all along about the full hand.

West had indeed let the contract through when he switched to a diamond.

 

 

 

What did I learn from this?

Mainly that what looks obvious to declarer is not obvious to the defense.  Against almost any other West player I would have assumed that he was simply playing the 'natural' defense of a diamond switch.  I should have trusted my analysis of the likely layout and done the same here.

The world's best players don't get everything right.

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