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A rare opportunity missed in GNT Finals
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Bidding and making unmakeable 3nt contracts is what Meckwell do for a living. But they are not known for their generosity to their opponents while defending unmakeble contracts. But every once in a while a hand comes along that demands a crucial decision to be made in the first few tricks where the right solution on a given lay-out may be wrong on several others. That's when you want to be declarer. But first let's start by defending a 3nt contract.

West
North
732
72
AQ10875
63
East
984
J863
K42
1085
South
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
10
J
3
1
0
J
9
5
2

If declarer has 3 and partner led from a 5-card suit and are ready to run it's right to grab this trick and shoot back a .(Not sure whether Meckwell play regular Smith or reverse Smith signal). If partner led from a 4-card suit, then it's a lot more likely that partner's distribution is 5-4-2-2 in which case ducking is right. One thing is clear: if you grab this trick when you shouldn't have there's probably no recovering from it. While ducking this trick when you shouldn't have may not necessarily hand the contract to the declarer. May be partner's next card will tell us what to do (hopefully not what we should have done). While you're thinking about this, let's switch seats and become declarer.

West
North
732
72
AQ10875
63
East
South
AQ
AKQ94
J63
KJ4
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
10
J
3
1
0
J
9
5
4
3
2
0
6
6
3

OK, so LHO overcalled 1, led a 4th best and he has  a stiff . If his shape is 5=3=1=4 you can continue with a small as defense can only take 4 tricks. But he led from a 5-card suit headed by the AQ, continuing to establish won't work so well. But how can you do better by abandoning ? If LHO is 5-5 in blacks, RHO will have 4 and he'll get in unless you can duck a trick to LHO ! But then what if LHO's shape was 5=3=1=4 to start with ? Now you have ducked a trick that you may never get back. Let's say you win the A and play a low . Hope J and T are split. RHO plays low and you insert the Nine losing to LHO's T, who has nothing better than to return a . You cash your remaining winners and come down to this five card ending.

North
732
Q
6
South
AQ
3
K4

What does LHO come down to ? If he's Kx - - AQx you need to play A and Q to end-play him. What if his remaining cards are KJx -- AQ (where the x is not the Nine). Now if you try A and Q LHO will unblock the J under the Ace, top the Queen with the King and put partner in with the 9 to beat you a trick. In the latter ending you need to exit K ! So looks like it's a guess.

It's not just LHO that comes under pressure on the run of s. RHO who is 3=4=3=3 has to keep the K as you still have a in your hand. On the last he has to discard a black card. If he comes down to 2-2 in blacks he can't stop you from playing A and Q. So he has to discard a to retain 3 . Now you simply exit the K and end-play your esteemed LHO in style. The whole hand turns out to be:

West
KJ1065
105
9
AQ972
North
732
72
AQ10875
63
East
984
J863
K42
1085
South
AQ
AKQ94
J63
KJ4
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
h defenders

Notice that this line of play works perfectly even if LHO was 5=3=1=4. Both defenders face the same problem as before in the 5-card ending.

This is a great opening lead problem as well. You need to lead a black suit as their side has advertised strength in red suits that can establish given time. But either black suit can be right. But which suit needs less from partner ? If partner has as much as two or three small s and a stopper in one of the red suits that may be enough for a lead to be effective, whereas a lead needs a honor from partner to be useful. Rodwell thought for a while and led a .

How many IMPs did you gain for making 3nt ? Lose only 1 IMP. Yes that's right. Your teammate led a on a 2nt-3nt auction and declarer wrapped up ten tricks in a hurry.

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