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Counting Points
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North
72
K7654
K1084
AQ
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
3NT
P
P
P

You open 1H in third seat, and partner raises to 2H over East's 1S overcall. This is passed back to East, who doubles. West thinks for a while before bidding 3NT. Nobody has anything further to say, so you're on lead.

North
72
K7654
K1084
AQ
East
AKQ94
2
Q652
1042
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
3NT
P
P
P

It sounds like RHO has the hearts locked up, and your pips are meagre, so you might well consider an alternative lead. At the table, my partner led a diamond, reasonably enough.

Dummy is fairly minimum for this sequence, but you might still have your work cut out beating it.

Declarer looks over the opening lead and rises with dummy's queen, which holds the trick. Your partner contributes the 3 - in principle, you're playing low cards as encouraging. But that's tempered by the obvious fact that he didn't beat the queen.

Now declarer leads a spade to the jack, followed by four more spades. Your partner starts with a peter - 5 then 3 - which means that he likes your opening lead. Since he couldn't beat the queen, this should show the jack. Declarer discards a heart and two clubs while you shed three of your small hearts. On the fifth round of spades, your partner discards the heart nine - again, low encouraging - so he's sent a very clear signal that he doesn't have the big hearts.

Now, declarer leads a heart to the queen and your king, and you're in.

North
7
K108
AQ
East
652
1042
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
3NT
P
P
P

Well, this is looking a bit worrisome. Declarer has taken five spade tricks and a diamond, and seems to definitely have the heart ace and diamond ace left. That's eight tricks, and his additional hearts might well be winners also.

However, a bit of counting reveals the key here. West passed in second seat, and has shown up with the jack of spades, ace-queen of hearts, and ace of diamonds. He can hardly have another high card, or he would have opened the bidding.

So, my partner made the excellent switch to the club ace. South is a certainty to hold the club king, and very likely to hold the club jack. Maybe he doesn't have enough clubs to take this contract down, but it's the only chance that you have.

This was the whole deal:

West
J6
AQ103
A97
8753
North
72
K7654
K1084
AQ
East
AKQ94
2
Q652
1042
South
10853
J98
J3
KJ96
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0

I overtook the CQ and cashed out for down one.

A few boards later, another hand on the same theme came up.

North
A1076
102
Q10976
K7
South
KJ985
KJ8
A3
Q102
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

That wasn't actually our auction - we used some fancy Drury stuff - but we reached 4S and didn't give any particular information to the opponents. If it matters, West is an expert, East probably not so much.

The club 5 was led. I played low from dummy and East took the ace. Then she led the ace of hearts and another, and I took my king. At this point, I don't know if she's found a possibly soft defence with just the heart ace, or she had the heart ace-queen and I never had a losing option.

With a near-certain diamond loser, this contract is liable to come down to the spade guess. Raw percentages favour playing to drop the queen, which is slightly better than closing my eyes and guessing which opponent might have it. But I can do better.

North
A1076
102
Q10976
K7
South
KJ985
KJ8
A3
Q102
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

At trick three I lead a low diamond away from the ace. West is an expert, so there's a non-zero chance that he'll find it attractive to duck with the diamond king, in case rising would solve a guess. But the small chance of stealing a diamond trick isn't my main purpose here. When West plays small, the contract is a near-certainty. I rise with the queen. If it wins - fantastic! I can now try to guess the spades for an improbable overtrick.

The queen loses to the king. This looks bad, but it provides me with a treasure beyond price - information. East passed in third position and has shown up with the heart ace, club ace and diamond king. She can't possibly have the queen of spades, or she would have opened the bidding. So, I finesse West for the lady, and score up my vulnerable game.

West
Q32
Q753
J4
J965
North
A1076
102
Q10976
K7
East
4
A964
K852
A843
South
KJ985
KJ8
A3
Q102
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I reflect that if East had opened this hand, I would have been guessing on my own. Many players give away information by bidding too much, but here, East gave away their hand by not bidding.

Then I realised that the session offered up another hand with a similar theme.

North
942
A752
K753
J10
South
3
KQ109843
96
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
4
P
P
P

After three passes, you elect to open the bidding with four hearts - which will often be a good chance for a make, and may also deter unwanted competition in spades.

West leads the spade ace and king, and you ruff. You lead the king of hearts, and West follows with the jack, East with the 6.

The contract is laydown - you'll take seven heart tricks, two top clubs and a club ruff - but this is a pairs session and overtricks are always good. You're about to lead a diamond to the king, when you realise that you know who has the ace. West has passed as dealer and shown up with the spade ace-king and the heart jack. He can't have the ace of diamonds.

So, if leading a diamond to the king can't work, what else is there? One possibility is to cross to dummy - perhaps by overtaking the first heart - and leading a diamond away from the king. On a brilliant day, East will fear you holding a bare queen of diamonds and jump up with the ace. In any case, nothing will be lose trying.

No, it didn't work - the ace-queen of diamonds were over the king, and we took the same ten tricks as three quarters of the room. But it was worth a try, because by counting points we knew that the normal play couldn't work.

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