A Nudge in the Wrong Direction


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This deal comes from the first round of a 2008 Spingold Knockout Teams match. This might be the simplest bidding you ever see me write about. You deal at unfavorable vulnerability, and hold:

♠ K Q 3 2
A Q 3 2
Q J 8
♣ Q 8

Playing a 15–17 1NT, you have an easy opening bid. In the old days, players worried about such things as not having full stoppers in every suit. Some teachers didn’t like a 1NT opening with 4–4 in the majors. All of those are old ideas. These days, just about any balanced hand in range should be opened with 1NT. Partner raises to 3NT and everyone passes. The J (standard) is led, and you see:

♠ A 7 6
K 8
K 10 9 7 6
♣ 10 6 4

♠ K Q 3 2
A Q 3 2
Q J 8
♣ Q 8

You look to have serious troubles. Obviously, you need to knock out the A to develop nine tricks. But, when you do so, the defense can switch to clubs to defeat you. Do you see anything?

A beginner would cash all the major-suit winners and then play diamonds. Obviously, that won’t work.

More experienced players know they have to knock out the A early, but fear that a club switch will set them. One well-known ploy is to win the heart lead and play clubs yourself! Maybe the defense will figure that if you are playing clubs, they should be playing something else. Occasionally, you might even find that a club to the queen holds the trick!

I think there is an even better deceptive play available — at least it is the one I tried at the table. I won the K in dummy at trick one and dropped the Q from hand (in tempo, of course).

Now, I played a diamond to the queen and West’s ace. He couldn’t wait to knock out my A to clear the suit. When he did, I had my nine tricks (three spades, two hearts and four diamonds). The sacrifice of the other heart trick was well worth it. This was the full deal:

Dlr: West ♠ A 7 6
Vul: E-W K 8
K 10 9 7 6
♣ 10 6 4
♠ J 9 ♠ 10 8 5 4
J 10 9 7 6 5 4
A 2 5 4 3
♣ K J 7 5 ♣ A 9 3 2
♠ K Q 3 2
A Q 3 2
Q J 8
♣ Q 8

This is the kind of play that is fun, once you think of it. As to how to recognize the opportunity at the table, I suppose that now that you’ve seen it, you might be able to try such a ploy in your future.

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