Join Bridge Winners
Unusual Coup
(Page of 9)

In a quarter-final match in the Senior Trials, you face a difficult problem when partner's Precision 2 opening is overcalled.

N-S vul, South deals. As North, you hold

North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
W
N
E
S
2
2
?

2: 6+ clubs, 10-15 HCP, may have major.

Available to you are:

Double: Negative double

2NT: Forces 3. A follow-up 3NT would show doubt about notrump.

3: Natural game force

4: RKC for clubs

Your call?

North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
W
N
E
S
2
2
?

You might as well start with a negative double. If partner has 4 spades he will bid 2, and you will probably belong in a spade contract. If parner doesn't have 4 spades he will do something else, and you can continue probing for the best contract which might be 3NT, 5, 6, or even 4 in a 4-3 fit.

You double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
?

3 would not be forcing. 4 would be RKC for clubs.

Your call?

North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
?

You could try 3 to see what partner does. If he bids 3, you might decide to try a 4-3 spade fit but that would be risky. If he bids 3NT he probably has Jxx of hearts, in which case 3NT will be okay. Otherwise, 3NT won't be making unless partner has solid clubs, in which case 5 should be okay also. All things considered, it looks best to play in clubs.

As long as you are willing to commit to clubs, you might as well try 4, RKC, along the way. If partner has 2 with the queen that will be AKQxxx of clubs, which gives you good chances to make slam. Partner could have the king of spades, or the spade finesse could be onside. Assuming you have 6 club tricks, the king of spades will give you 12 winners. Partner might have the queen of diamonds, which could be enough. Even if partner has nothing but clubs, if he has a doubleton diamond you might be able to establish a long diamond, which along with a winning spade finesse comes to 12 tricks.

You choose to bid 3. The bidding continues:

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

4 would be RKC for clubs. 4NT would be a diamond cue-bid.

Your call?

North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
?

Once again, 4 RKC on the way to 5 looks right. You are willing to take a shot at 6 if partner has AKQ of clubs.

You choose to bid 5, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

Over you go to try and make it.

West leads the ace of hearts.

North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
South
KJ
105
J85
AQ8432
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

East plays the 3. At trick 2 West shifts to the 3, to the 9 and jack. How do you proceed?

North
AQ8
K
AK742
106
South
K
10
J85
AQ8432
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

Your losing diamond can be disposed of on dummy's spades, so it is just a matter of losing only 1 trump trick.

Leading the 10 off dummy and letting it ride if not covered is clearly better than leading low towards the queen. The plan would be to finesse for the 9 if it goes jack, queen, king, and to finesse for the king if the 10 loses to the jack. This gains when East has J97, J95, and KJ75. It also gains when East has J75 unless East is sharp enough to cover the 10, a play which analysis would show is correct but is not particularly obvious.

Another possibility is to lay down the ace. This gains when West has stiff king or stiff jack, as there appear to be sufficient entries to dummy for a trump coup. It also gains when West has KJ doubleton. If nothing exciting happens when you lead the ace, you can cross to dummy and lead a club up, deciding whether to play East for Kxx or West for king-doubleton.

Without any other information, it appears better to ride the 10 of clubs, since you would be on that guess after leading the ace. However, West did overcall at the 2-level. Even though he is at favorable vulnerability, he might be hesitant to step in without the king of clubs, for fear his partner would take him seriously and bid a hopeless game. If you are willing to play West for the king of clubs, then laying down the ace and following through by ducking the second round of clubs is clearly the better play.

You choose to lay down the ace of clubs. The Rabbi nods his head in approval as West drops the king. How do you proceed?

North
AQ8
K
AK742
10
South
K
10
J85
Q8432
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

There are hands where a devious defender might drop the king from KJ doubleton in order to steer you away from a winning line of play, but this doesn't appear to be one of them. Even if it would be West's proper play, this kind of falsecard just isn't made in real life. You should assume that West's king is singleton. If West has found a brilliant falsecard and the falsecard induces you to take a losing line, you pay off.

You will need some kind of a trump coup against East. This will mean cashing enough winners along with getting two small ruffs in your hand and eventually scoring your 8. East will not be able to gain by ruffing something with his 9, as you can overruff, drive out his jack, and your 8 will pull his last trump.

Normally when running a trump coup it is necessary to be in dummy at the end to lead through East. This is an unusual coup in that you don't need to be in dummy in the end position. If you come down to Q8x of clubs in your hand, you can lead a club to the 10. East will win, and be end-played. This will ease the entry problem to dummy.

The first order of business is to cash the king of spades. There is no need to overtake, since you have at least one diamond entry and one heart entry to dummy. If might be valuable for both of dummy's spades to be good.

You cash the king of spades. Everybody follows. What next?

North
AQ
K
AK742
10
South
10
J85
Q8432
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

It is clearly right to cross to a diamond. You will be ruffing at least one diamond in your hand. The heart entry must be saved for the final entry to get the second small ruff in your hand. Your losing diamond will go on dummy's good spade.

You cross to the ace of diamonds and cash the ace of spades, discarding a diamond. Everybody follows. Now what?

North
Q
K
K742
10
South
10
J
Q8432
W
N
E
S
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

You are almost there. You just need to get a small ruff in your hand, cross back to dummy, get another small ruff, and you have your trump end-play. The only danger is that East may be able to ruff one of your winners.

Suppose you try cashing the king of diamonds. That will be fine if East follows. However, East's shape might have been 4-4-1-4, leaving West with 3-5-4-1. This isn't likely since that wouldn't give West much of an overcall with a 5-card suit and East might have raised with 4 trumps and a singleton, but it is possible.

Suppose you try cashing the fourth spade discarding a diamond, and then ruffing a diamond. The danger is that East might have started with a doubleton heart and be discarding his second heart on the spade. This would make East's shape 3-2-4-4, with West having 4-7-1-1. Again not likely, but possible.

There is, however, a 100% safe play. Lead the good spade, and see what East does. If East follows or discards a diamond, you can discard your last diamond, ruff a diamond, and cross back with a heart confident that East will follow since West doesn't have 8 hearts. However, if East discards a heart you change plans. You discard your heart, ruff the king of hearts, and cross back with a diamond for the final ruff. This has to be safe. East will have 4 clubs and 3 spades, and he can't have 5 hearts as that would mean West would have overcalled on a 4-card suit.

You choose to cash the king of diamonds. It lives. As planned, you ruff a diamond, lead a heart to dummy, and ruff a spade. Having reached the desired end position, you lead a trump from your hand to the 10 and jack. East is end-played, and the contract makes. The full hand is:

West
763
AJ9862
Q109
K
North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
East
10942
743
63
J975
South
KJ
105
J85
AQ8432
W
N
E
S
 
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
Q
3
5
0
0
1
3
5
9
J
3
1
1
A
K
6
5
3
2
1
K
7
8
10
3
3
1
8
9
A
3
1
4
1
A
4
5
6
1
5
1
K
6
J
Q
1
6
1
2
2
2
10
3
7
1
10
2
K
4
1
8
1
Q
7
3
6
3
9
1
4
11

How was the defense?

West
763
AJ9862
Q109
K
North
AQ85
KQ
AK742
106
East
10942
743
63
J975
South
KJ
105
J85
AQ8432
W
N
E
S
 
2
2
X
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
Q
3
5
0
0
1
3
5
9
J
3
1
1
A
K
6
5
3
2
1
K
7
8
10
3
3
1
8
9
A
3
1
4
1
A
4
5
6
1
5
1
K
6
J
Q
1
6
1
2
2
2
10
3
7
1
10
2
K
4
1
8
1
Q
7
3
6
3
9
1
4
11

The ace of hearts lead may seem obvious, since N-S avoided 3NT. However, if East had the king of hearts he certainly would have doubled the 3 cue-bid. That indicates that the heart lead cannot be productive, and it might set up a needed discard. The lead does have the advantage of giving West a look at dummy, which might tell West what to shift to. However, the fact that East didn't double 3 and the danger of the lead setting up a discard is an argument for leading a spade or a diamond.

The spade shift seems natural, hoping East has the king of spades. A count of the hand indicates that declarer can't have his opening bid if he doesn't have the king of spades. Given that, a heart continuation looks better since it might take out a dummy entry before declarer can do what ruffing might be necessary for a trump coup.

At the other table, South passed as dealer. West opened 1, and North wound up declaring 3NT. After heart to the ace and a heart, declarer won, unblocked the spades, crossed to a diamond, and cashed his spades with West discarding a heart on the fourth spade. Declarer knew that West had all the high cards, but he didn't know West's distribution. He judged to play West to have been squeezed with 3-5-3-2 shape, so he ducked a diamond and went down 1.

A chess grandmaster once said: "When you see a good move, don't make it immediately. Look and try to find a better move." The same applies in bridge. Cashing the king of diamonds was a good play, and was very likely to make the contract. However, there was a better play which declarer should have looked for.

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