xmlns:w="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40"> Mountnessing Bridge Club

Mountnessing Bridge Club



Board 13: Question the textbooks!!!



Hand played on 

26th February 2009 

Board number 13

Ladies', Men's, and Open Pairs





Submitted by

Alaric Cundy




A J 4

K 7 4 2

Q 6 5

T 5 3





8 5 3

J 9 6 5

J 4

A J 4 2



Q T 7 6

T 8 3

K 3 2

Q 9 6
























K 9 2


A T 9 8 7

K 8 7



















This hand was played in 3NT by South at every table - making anything from six to ten tricks!  Sixteen times 9 tricks were made, twice 10 tricks, but at the other 8 tables Declarer failed by between one and three tricks.


Despite the abundance of high cards the play of the hand requires great care, especially if West opens up with the 2 at trick one.  In terms of top tricks there are two spades, three hearts, one diamond, and, on the lead, one club.  That is only seven tricks, and Declarer must make something of the diamond suit to get home.


Declarer should note that if the opening lead is an 'honest' fourth best, Then the Defenders have three clubs to win, and so Declarer can only afford to lose one diamond.  The textbooks will tell you that the correct way to play that combination of diamonds is firstly to lead the Queen from Dummy; if it is covered, take the trick, then concede to the Jack, and the rest of the suit will be good; if the Queen is not covered then let it run, presumably losing to the King offside.   Regain the lead in Dummy and finesse East for the Jack.  That line of play will give just one loser in the suit 75% of the time -  it will only fail if both the King and Jack are held by West .


On this particular example, the lead of the Queen from Dummy would 'pick up' East's King and so all looks well.


However, it is also essential to consider each hand on its merits, and this example is one on which the textbook advice needs to be questioned.  The problem is caused by the chronic communication problems between the two hands.  There is only one obvious entry to Dummy, and the play of the diamonds in the recommended way requires two entries - and on top of that, a third entry would be needed to access the third heart trick.


So what should Declarer do?


One possibility is to sacrifice one of the heart tricks by overtaking the Queen in Dummy.  Now Dummy can be reached twice, and Declarer could amass two spades, two hearts, four diamonds, and a club.  The risk with that line is that if the diamonds go wrong, Declarer will become wide open in hearts, as well as clubs, and with potentially two diamond losers, he could be staring at a large negative score on the board.  As it happens, with the diamonds doing what we would hope, nine tricks will roll in.


An alternative line is to try to sneak an extra entry courtesy of the spade finesse.  If the spade finesse works (50% chance - but in practice it doesn't) then Declarer will succeed if the diamonds also behave (75% chance).  This line of play therefore has a 37.5% chance of success - not good odds, and so it is not recommended.  


In practice, at our table Declarer resorted to 'Kitchen Bridge' approaches to the play of the diamonds.  First the Ace was played.  If either the King or Jack falls singleton then Declarer is home and dry - indeed if East drops the singleton King then Declarer can wrap up all five diamonds without losing the lead, for a total of 11 tricks.  When neither honour drops, Declarer continues with a diamond to table.  If either the King or Jack are played by West - as happens here - then again Declarer is home and dry for nine tricks.  Only if West plays small does Declarer face a potentially critical guess as to whether to rise with the Queen or to let it run.  


At Teams of Four Bridge - when the critical requirement is to make the game contract - the heart trick sacrifice play looks the best bet.  At match-pointed pairs, with the small chance of precious overtricks, the 'Kitchen Bridge' play looks to have the edge.  On this particular deal, either play yields nine tricks.