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Event 3, Match 1, Board 5


Our side vulnerable

RHO opens 1NT (15-17) in second seat. LHO bids 2, a transfer to spades. RHO bids 2, which ends the auction.

With nothing much to go on, I lead the 8, choosing my longest suit.

Partner has from 10 to 12 HCP. Make that 10 to 11, since he's a passed hand. It's inconceivable he didn't balance with a singleton spade. So declarer has at most 3 spades.

Dummy plays the 10, partner plays the J, and declarer follows with the 7. Partner switches to the A. With ace-jack doubleton, partner would cash the A and try for a heart ruff. With ace-jack fourth, partner might worry that declarer can ruff a heart and might switch to a trump. (He can't be sure I have four hearts, but it's likely, since queen-nine-eight third is a rather unattractive lead.) I am going to assume, therefore, that hearts are three-three, although I can hardly be certain about that just yet. Partner might have reasons I don't know about to prefer a club switch to a trump switch.

Why is partner leading the club ace rather than a low one? Perhaps he has ace doubleton and is looking for a ruff. Or perhaps he has the jack and sees no gain in leading low. Perhaps he would prefer to retain the option of switching plans if, say, declarer dropped an honor under the ace. Leading the ace from length without the jack would be dangerous, since it could cost a trick if I had queen doubleton or queen-jack doubleton. (Not to mention taking declarer off a potential guess, although that's something Jack wouldn't worry about.)

Declarer plays the 8. Do I want partner to continue clubs or to switch to diamond? Say partner plays a club and declarer hops with the king and plays another one to my queen. Partner still has the A as an entry to put a diamond through. And I have a spade entry to cash it. So we won't lose my K. If partner switches to a diamond, however, and if declarer has ace-queen-jack, there may be no way for us to stop my club trick from disappearing. Accordingly, I encourage with the 5.

Partner continues with the 7, and declarer wins with the K. If the seven is an honest card, partner should have either (1) A 7, (2) A J 7, or (3) A J 7 x x (where the seven is present count). He might also have (4) A 7 x. As I explained earlier, I'm inclined to think won't have length without the jack. But I will include that holding anyway for the time being. I can always discard that possibility later if it becomes too hard to cater to it. That gives declarer:

(1) K J 8 3 2
(2) K 8 3 2
(3) K 8
(4) K J 8 x


(2) is impossible. Declarer cannot afford to falsecard the eight with that holding. So I'm left with (1), (3), and (4).

What else do I know? Since partner has shown up with 9 HCP and is a passed hand, he can't have both spade honors. Declarer also knows partner is limited to 2 additional HCP. So, from his point of view, I am marked with both the K and K.

I follow with the 4. Declarer cashes the A. He needn't bother finessing with ace-queen. But he would probably make a more concerted effort to pick up spades if he had ace-jack. So I am going to assume he has A Q, A Q x, or A Q J.

I play the 7--2--5. Declarer now leads the J. Whoa! What is going on? What's the hurry to play diamonds? For that matter, why play diamonds at all? All our round-suit tricks are ready to cash, so there is nothing to gain by setting up diamond tricks.

I play the K, and partner follows with the 2, showing an odd number. I should be able to construct declarer's hand now. Declarer must have either

(1) A Q x x x A Q J K J 8 x x
(2) A Q ? x x x A Q J x x K 8
(3) A Q ? x x x A Q J K J 8 x

(1) and (3) are not possible. Declarer has nothing to gain by conceding a diamond with those hands. He would play clubs, intending to pitch a diamond on the J and hoping we must ruff with a natural trump trick. Playing on diamonds makes perfect sense with (2), however. Declarer must knock out the diamond before trumps are drawn, else we will be able to cash a club trick. Driving the K allows him to pitch dummy's club if diamonds are three-three, if someone ruffs the third diamond with a natural trump trick, or if we make a mistake on defense. In fact, I suspect I can go even further and assume that the '?' is the J. If it is the 8, declarer probably would not have cashed the A. Cashing the ace risks allowing us to draw his trumps (heart to the ace and a spade to my putative king-jack) and cash the club.

I play the 9, the lowest card I can afford, to show an odd number remaining. (The Q should show a doubleton.) Declarer plays K from dummy. Partner wins with the A and returns the 2 to my Q. If my construction is correct, it doesn't matter what I do. So I must assume I'm wrong. It's hard to believe I'm wrong about declarer's having a doubleton club. Abandoning trumps to establish diamonds is simply pointless otherwise. But I might be wrong about the J. If partner has it and I continue a club, declarer will ruff and play the Q, smothering the jack. If I play a diamond, allowing declarer to pitch his club loser, he must play trumps out of his hand and might misguess.

Of course, a human expert could not possibly misguess. If I had king doubleton, I could take two trump tricks by force by tapping him. So, against a human, I would play a club anyway. Even though I'm fairly sure it's not cashing, there's nothing else worth trying. Jack, however, cannot draw inferences from my defense. So he's perfectly capable of "misguessing" spades. I play the 10--8--7--A. Declarer cashes the Q, pitching dummy's club, then plays the 8 from his hand, which I let ride to partner's J. Down two.


My care in going for the extra trick was worthwhile, since our teammates played the same contract, down one. We pick up two imps.

Table 1: +100
Table 2: -50

Result on Board 5: +2 imps
Total: +14 imps


Phillip Martin Phillip Martin lives in Scarsdale, New York. He is the Chief Technology Officer for Gargoyle Strategic Investments in Englewood, New Jersey. He is also a composer, currently serving as Composer-in-Residence for Hartford Opera Theater. While he retired from tournament play some twenty years ago to pursue other interests, he has remained active in bridge as a writer, contributing occasional articles to The Bridge World and Bridge Today and publishing a bridge blog, The Gargoyle Chronicles .

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