Join Bridge Winners
Ruff and Sluff
(Page of 11)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials, you face an interesting problem vs. an enemy 1NT overcall.

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

North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
?

Your call?

North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
?

This is an unusual problem. It looks right to make a penalty double and hope that everybody sits. The danger is that you have to be careful about what you wish for, since you might get it. West could have a bunch of club tricks. What are you going to lead, a heart or a spade? If you get it wrong, 1NT might be cold.

You have a good hand. However, you know that any heart finesse is going to be offside. On the other hand, if partner doesn't have the king of spades, it is probably onside. West does have a 1NT overcall, which has to diminish your chances of having a game. Perhaps it is right to go quietly with 2 or 2, either of which you figure to make.

Still, you do have a pretty good hand, and could have a game. The only strong call you have is to double. So perhaps that is the best action, even though it could backfire badly.

You double. The bidding continues:

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

Your call?

North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
?

As is often the case, somebody ran from 1NT doubled. This time it was partner. If he were balanced, he would be expected to pass. He is most likely 5-5 in the red suits.

Which major should be trumps? You have a semi-solid spade suit which will lose at most one trick. However, partner is very likely to be short in spades. On the assumption that he is at least 5-5 in the red suits, if he has a doubleton spade that means the opponents have at least a 10-card club fit. It is likely that East would have pulled to 2 if he has long clubs. If partner has a singleton or void in spades, that means there probably will be a spade loser if spades are trumps but no spade loser if heart are trumps. Your heart spots are decent, and may be sufficient if you need to ruff losing diamonds. It looks best to play in hearts.

What about the level? Your jack of hearts and king of diamonds are big cards opposite partner's red 2-suiter. Your hand has improved, and now you are too strong to merely bid 2. On the other hand, if partner really is minimal game probably won't be good. Inviting with 3 looks on target. Partner won't always get it right, but he will more often than not.

You bid 3, ending the auction.

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

You were generous enough to let partner be declarer in his suit, but you don't get off that easy in Kit's Korner. Over you go to play the hand.

West leads the king of clubs. Standard leads and carding.

North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
South
32
A10532
A653
Q7
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

East plays the 4. West cashes the ace of clubs, East playing the 5. West continues with the 6. What do you do?

North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
South
32
A10532
A653
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

You can be sure that the king of spades is onside. If West doesn't have the king of spades there is no way he would be giving you a ruff and sluff. He could always safely exit with a spade. Your only losers will be in the trump suit.

You can afford to lose 2 trump tricks. If the trumps are 3-2, you are always cold. It is likely that the trumps are 3-2. East didn't run from 1NT doubled, and if he had a singleton heart and a 5-card minor he probably would have run. He could be 4-1-4-4 with West having a singleton king of spades, or he might have just decided to sit out 1NT doubled with 5-4 in the minors and a singleton heart. You should try to cater to a 4-1 trump split if you can do so safely.

If you ruff in dummy, it won't be so easy to do. Leading a small trump from dummy will fail when West has KQ9x. Leading a trump up to dummy will fail when East has a singleton king, queen, or 9, and you misguess which trump to play from dummy. You could scramble along crossruff lines, but there are difficulties there also.

It looks better to discard a spade and ruff small in your hand. This retains all of dummy's trumps for future use. You may be able to get home with some kind of combined crossruff and trump end-play.

Suppose you discard a spade from dummy and ruff small in your hand. How do you time the play?

North
AQJ109
J87
K4
South
32
A1053
A653
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

You have one small trump in. You can count 2 spade tricks and 2 diamond tricks. If you can score 2 more small ruffs you will have 7 tricks in, and you can let the opponents in. Your remaining holding of A10x opposite Jx must produce two more tricks with the opponents on lead.

You will only need to take the spade finesse once. You aren't planning on taking 3 spade tricks. Therefore, you can use your ace of diamonds entry to ruff a diamond in dummy.

Best appears to be to lead a spade to the queen. Then king of diamonds, diamond to ace, diamond ruff, and ace of spades. If East is ruffing the second spade or overruffing the diamond he figures to have 3 trumps, so you will be fine. Most likely East will be following to these tricks. Now you lead a spade off dummy.

If East discards, ruff small and exit with your last diamond. Do not ruff. The opponents will have to give you two of the last 3 tricks.

If East ruffs with the 6, overruff with the 10. East will definitely have started with at least 2 hearts since he wouldn't have sat for 1NT doubled with 10 cards in the minors. Therefore, you can cash the ace of hearts and ruff your last diamond, losing only 2 trump tricks.

If East follows to the third spade, West's king will have dropped. You discard your last diamond as West ruffs. West will exit with a minor suit card, which you ruff small in your hand. Now you will have to guess. Percentage play appears to be to lay down the ace of hearts, losing only when West started with KQxx.

In fact, you choose to ruff the club in dummy. What do you discard from your hand?

North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
South
32
A10532
A653
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

The spade finesse is definitely onside, or West wouldn't have continued clubs. It has to be right to discard a diamond.

You discard a diamond. What do you play next?

North
AQJ1095
J8
K4
South
32
A10532
A65
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

The entry position for the crossruff and trump end-play is now too awkward. It looks best to simply lead a small heart from dummy and hope that if the hearts are 4-1 East has a singleton honor.

You lead the 8. East plays the 6. What do you play?

North
AQJ1095
J8
K4
South
32
A10532
A65
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

If East started with Q96 of hearts he should have covered with the 9. However, he might not have been watching the spots carefully. It can't hurt to let the 8 ride.

You choose to play the 10. West wins the queen, and shifts to the 7. You take a winning finesse, and lead the jack of hearts off dummy. The hearts are 3-2, and you make. The full hand is:

West
K7
Q94
J92
AKJ62
North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
East
864
K6
Q1087
10854
South
32
A10532
A653
Q7
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
4
7
0
0
1
A
9
Q
5
0
0
2
6
7
8
3
1
1
2
8
6
10
Q
0
1
3
7
Q
4
2
1
2
3
J
K
A
4
3
3
3
6

How was the defense?

West
K7
Q94
J92
AKJ62
North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
East
864
K6
Q1087
10854
South
32
A10532
A653
Q7
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
4
7
0
0
1
A
9
Q
5
0
0
2
6
7
8
3
1
1
2
8
6
10
Q
0
1
3
7
Q
4
2
1
2
3
J
K
A
4
3
3
3
6

West followed the principle of when all else looks hopeless, give declarer a ruff and sluff and hope something good comes of it. This is often the right idea, but on this hand it looks better for West to shift to a small spade after cashing his clubs. If declarer has a singleton spade, declarer might not take the finesse and have subsequent problems. Even if declarer takes the spade finesse, the spade return could help the defense.

Suppose declarer's hand is xx K10xxx AQxx Qx. Declarer might take the finesse and lead a heart to the ten and queen. West continues spades. Now declarer has a problem. If declarer leads another small heart from dummy he will be okay. However, if he crosses to his hand and leads a heart to the jack and ace, West scores his 9 on the third round of spades. If you think declarer should automatically get this right, consider that West would defend the same way if he had Kxx of spades and AQ doubleton of hearts. Now if declarer leads a heart to his king, West wins his ace and it is East who scores the 9 on the third round of spades.

Do you like the E-W bidding?

West
K7
Q94
J92
AKJ62
North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
East
864
K6
Q1087
10854
South
32
A10532
A653
Q7
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
4
7
0
0
1
A
9
Q
5
0
0
2
6
7
8
3
1
1
2
8
6
10
Q
0
1
3
7
Q
4
2
1
2
3
J
K
A
4
3
3
3
6

The 1NT overcall is reasonable. West has only 14 HCP, but there is compensation holding the 5-card club suit. After that, E-W were obviously done.

What about South's auction?

West
K7
Q94
J92
AKJ62
North
AQJ1095
J87
K4
93
East
864
K6
Q1087
10854
South
32
A10532
A653
Q7
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
2
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
3
4
7
0
0
1
A
9
Q
5
0
0
2
6
7
8
3
1
1
2
8
6
10
Q
0
1
3
7
Q
4
2
1
2
3
J
K
A
4
3
3
3
6

The opening bid was very light. Granted N-S are playing a limited opening bid system which can support light opening bids, but you have to draw the line somewhere. South has an ugly queen-doubleton of clubs which must be downgraded. On the other hand he is 5-4, he has two aces which is very important, and he has the 10 in his longest suit. Most important, he is non-vulnerable. The reason the vulnerability makes a difference is that if vulnerable partner is going to stretch to bid a marginal game, and South won't like that. The actual North hand is a good illustration. If N-S were vulnerable, North probably would have driven to game. It turns out that both 4 and 4 make on a lucky lie of the cards, but even vulnerable you don't want to be in this one.

South did have the option of opening a 10-12 1NT. The strength is right for this, and the hand type is okay. However, it is better to open 1 of the major when you are 5-4 with a 5-card major. The 1 of a major opening is the boss opening bid in Precision. It is very tightly defined, and responder can often go directly to the right contract and give the opponents headaches.

South's pull of the double is questionable. South wasn't pulling out of fear so much, although 1NT might be making. Holding the 5-4 shape with neither vulnerable, South simply decided that on balance he would do better declaring than defending.

Had South passed, West might have run. If West sits it out, the defense can collect 500 with a heart lead to the ace and a spade shift, but that's not going to happen. Most likely North will lead a spade, and that will be a quick down 1. If North does lead a heart declarer will play small from dummy, and South will surely put in the 10 for the same down 1.

At the other table South passed, West opened 1NT, and N-S got to 2. With the friendly lie of the cards, this made 10 tricks.

When the opponents give you a sluff and a ruff, there is often a reason why they chose this defense. Seeing this reason can be helpful in the subsequent play of the hand.

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