Join Bridge Winners
Unsafe Safety Play
(Page of 12)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you must decide how hard to push a very strong hand.

None vul, South deals. As North, you hold:

North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
?

1: Strong, artificial

1: 0-7 HCP

1: 4+ spades, forcing

Double would be takeout

Your call?

North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
?

Your logical choices are 2 and double. 2 would tend to show more distribution, likely 5-5. Also, you could be considerably weaker for a 2 call. Partner might be passing when you have a game.

Double looks better. You don't want to play in hearts unless partner can bid them. Also, double keeps clubs in the picture, which might be where you belong.

You double. The bidding continues:

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

Your call?

 

North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
?

You still haven't shown the extra strength you have. While it is possible that 2 is the limit of the hand if partner is broke, you have to make a further move.

On the other hand, there is no need to drive to game. Inviting with 3 will certainly show a powerhouse like this. Partner will accept on almost any excuse. Keep in mind that his first call showed a weak hand, and if he were on the top of his 0-7 he would have bid more than 2. If partner really is broke, you don't want to be in game.

You bid 3. The auction concludes:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

It is a shame to hold this strong hand and have to be dummy. Fortunately, in Kit's Korner you get to exchange seats and play the hand.

West leads the 5. Standard leads and carding.

North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
South
54
K987
J9
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

East follows with the 2. How do you continue?

 

North
Q9862
AJ42
AKQ
South
54
K987
J
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

If both rounded suits split 3-2, you have 10 easy tricks: 4 heart tricks (3 on power and a ruff in one of the hands), 5 club tricks, and 1 diamond trick. The concern is that one or both suits might split 4-1.

There cannot be a gain for playing a heart to the king and a heart to the jack. Even if the finesse wins and the suit is 3-2, you stil need the clubs to split. If they don't all you have is 5 heart tricks, 3 club tricks, and 1 diamond trick. If West has Q10xx of hearts the finesse won't help you even if the clubs split. West declines to ruff the third round of clubs, and you will not be able to make use of your long clubs.

Since entries to your hand may be important, it must be better to play the ace of hearts first. This will leave you better placed if somebody has a singleton queen of hearts, and doesn't appear to be inferior in any variation.

You lead the ace of hearts. East plays the 3, and West the 5. What next?

 

North
Q9862
J42
AKQ
South
54
K98
J
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

It looks obvious to lead a small heart to your hand. This will potentially pick up Qx in either hand. Leading the jack only picks up 10x in the West hand.

You can afford to lose a heart trick and still make the contract provided the clubs are 3-2, so picking up Qx isn't so important. You want to take into account the possibility of a 4-1 club split.

Let's suppose you lead a heart to your king and drop somebody's queen-doubleton. You still have only 9 sure winners -- 5 hearts, 3 clubs, and 1 diamond, so drawing the last trump won't succeed if the clubs are 4-1. What if you instead go after clubs. If the opponent with the long trump is polite enough to ruff one of the club winners, you are home. Say they return a diamond. You can ruff, unblock the clubs and eventually ruff a spade in your hand, ruff out the last club, and your long club will be good, scoring 6 trump tricks, 3 club tricks, and 1 diamond trick. If they try to prevent this by attacking spades, dummy's long spade will set up.

The problem is that the opponent won't politely ruff one of the club winners. Now you will be stuck. The best you can do is lead a spade. They win and tap the dummy with a diamond. You lead another spade. The player with the long heart wins, and leads the heart. You wind up a trick short.

Is there some argument for leading the jack of hearts? There might be. Suppose you do this, and successfully pin the 10 in the West hand. Now you go after clubs, and they are 4-1. As we have seen, if East ruffs one of the club winners you have 10 tricks. But in this variation you are okay even if East doesn't ruff one of the clubs. You can now cross to the king of hearts, ruff out the last club, and your long club is good for a total of 5 trump tricks, 4 club tricks, and 1 diamond trick.

Does this line risk going down when both suits split? Yes, but it is unlikely. If West has Q10x of hearts and a doubleton spade, he can shift to a spade and score his 10 with a promotion on the third round of spades. Even if this is the layout, it will be very difficult for West to find this defense. He can't know this is your hand. From his point of view you could have a spade honor, and a spade shift from Ax or Kx would be costly. West will almost certainly continue diamonds, and you will be home.

Yet another approach would be to temporarily abandon trumps and go after clubs. If the clubs are 3-2, naturally you will go back to drawing trumps. If the clubs are 4-1 and the opponent with the 3-card trump holding has the short clubs you will still survive unless he can get another club ruff. The problem is that you are missing AK of spades, so he probably can get another ruff.

Putting it all together, it looks like leading the jack of hearts off dummy is the best play, planning on riding it if East doesn't cover.

Suppose you lead the jack of hearts off dummy and East does cover. Do you win or duck?

North
Q9862
J42
AKQ
South
54
K98
J
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Unless you are playing against a beginner who always covers an honor with an honor, East doesn't have Qxx of hearts. From his point of view you could have a 5-card heart suit, and the cover would solve all your problems, or you could be missing the king of hearts and have chosen to not take a double finesse due to entry difficulties. You can be sure that you have a trump loser.

Can it gain to duck? Possibly. If East has Q10xx of hearts and you win the king, you clearly have no chance. But if you duck, you could still survive. You will need East to have exactly 3 clubs, which isn't likely but it is possible. You can ruff the likely diamond return, cash the clubs, and take the marked heart finesse to make.

Can it cost to duck? Possibly. West could have 10xx of hearts with a doubleton spade, and score his 10 on an overruff. Once again, it will be difficult for East to find a winning spade shift if this is the case.

It isn't clear. But it is probably right to duck.

You choose to lead a small heart off dummy instead of leading the jack. What would you do if East plays the 10?

 

North
Q9862
J42
AKQ
South
54
K98
J
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

If East has split from Q10xx, as we have seen your only chance is to duck and hope that East has exactly 3 clubs. This runs the same risk as before -- that West has Qxx of hearts, a doubleton spade, and East finds the spade shift. This time it is right to win the king. First of all, East probably won't split from Q10xx, since from his point of view you might be about to go up king anyway. Secondly, when East wins the 10 from his 10 doubleton he will know that something unusual is going on, and he may figure out that this is your hand.

In fact, East follows with the 6. What do you do?

 

North
Q9862
J42
AKQ
South
54
K98
J
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Inserting the 9 is the standard safety play to avoid losing two tricks in the heart suit with this combination. Is it an unsafe safety play? West might have started with Q10x of hearts and a doubleton spade. If he shifts to a spade, he will score his queen of hearts on a promotion and you will go down when both suits split 3-2.

Is the safety play worth the risk? While East could split if he started with Q10xx, and perhaps should, most players don't split in this position since declarer might be going up king. The chance that East holds both honors is about the same as the chance that West holds both honors. For the safety play to be wrong, in addition to West holding both honors West must have a doubleton spade. He would also have to find a spade shift, which would not be too attractive from ace or king doubleton. We have seen that dropping the queen-doubleton of hearts won't make the contract if the clubs are 4-1. The safety play looks like a good bet.

You insert the 9. West wins the 10, and returns a diamond which you ruff in dummy. And now?

 

North
Q9862
J
AKQ
South
54
K8
97632
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

You need the clubs 3-2 to make. You might as well test the clubs by playing two rounds. If both opponents follow, you can draw the last trump and claim. If the clubs are 4-1 you can definitely get out for down 1 if the person with the long trump doesn't have the singleton club, as you can cash the third club, lead to your king of hearts, and knock out their good club. If the second club is ruffed the opponents will probably not be able to defeat you 2 tricks. On a diamond continuation you ruff in dummy, discard a spade, and have the trump entries to set up the long club. The opponents would have to be able to cash 2 spades without damaging their spade holding and then shift to a diamond in order to defeat you 2 tricks. By contrast, if you draw the last trump and the clubs don't split you are definitely down 2.

You choose to draw the last trump and unblock the clubs. The clubs are 3-2, so you make. The full hand is:

West
AKJ
105
Q8653
1085
North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
East
1073
Q63
K10742
J4
South
54
K987
J9
97632
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
9
1
1
0
A
3
7
5
1
2
0
2
6
9
10
0
2
1
3
4
7
J
1
3
1
J
Q
K
8
3
4
1
2
5
A
4
1
5
1
6

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

West
AKJ
105
Q8653
1085
North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
East
1073
Q63
K10742
J4
South
54
K987
J9
97632
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
9
1
1
0
A
3
7
5
1
2
0
2
6
9
10
0
2
1
3
4
7
J
1
3
1
J
Q
K
8
3
4
1
2
5
A
4
1
5
1
6

It is almost always right to lead from an AK holding. It is probably safe, you hold the lead, and you get a chance to look at dummy to see what you should be doing. This hand looks like an exception. Dummy is known to have a spade suit, so there won't be much to see. South doesn't have 3 spades, or he would have been supporting spades. The opponents are hopefully in a 4-4 fit, and the forcing game could make things difficult for them. The diamond lead looks right.

Do you agree with South's bidding?

 

West
AKJ
105
Q8653
1085
North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
East
1073
Q63
K10742
J4
South
54
K987
J9
97632
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
9
1
1
0
A
3
7
5
1
2
0
2
6
9
10
0
2
1
3
4
7
J
1
3
1
J
Q
K
8
3
4
1
2
5
A
4
1
5
1
6

South's 1 call was systemic. South was correct to bid 2 in response to the takeout double even though he has longer clubs. Major suits are where the games are. South would need another card to jump. However, once North invited South's hand is looking pretty good in the context of what South has already shown. South should bid game on any excuse, and the king of hearts is a pretty good excuse.

What about the E-W bidding?

 

West
AKJ
105
Q8653
1085
North
Q9862
AJ42
A
AKQ
East
1073
Q63
K10742
J4
South
54
K987
J9
97632
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
9
1
1
0
A
3
7
5
1
2
0
2
6
9
10
0
2
1
3
4
7
J
1
3
1
J
Q
K
8
3
4
1
2
5
A
4
1
5
1
6

West appears to have meant his double as showing diamonds, although it is possible that this wasn't clear to East. If West definitely showed diamonds, East should jack the auction up to the 3-level. East knows that N-S probably have at least a game since his partner is a passed hand. There is little danger that 3 is going to be doubled with the opponents having so few diamonds, and the extra level of bidding may make it much harder for the opponents to find their best contract whatever it is.

At the other table, N-S reached 4 played from the North side and also received a diamond lead. Declarer took what seems to be an odd approach of going after spades. But the spades behaved fine, and the board was pushed.

It is often the case that you have a choice of two plays, where one play has a greater chance of winning provided the defense doesn't work out the position but is riskier if the defense gets it right. In this situation, it is important to see how things will look to the opponents. If the opponents do not figure to go right, the riskier play can be worth taking.

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