Mike’s Advice


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♠ A 8 7 6 2
Q J 6
8 7 3
♣ 9 2

♠ 4 3
A K 10 5 3 2
A 9 2
♣ A 4

With both sides vulnerable, South opens 1. What would you respond with the North hand? Many would respond with 1♠, but these players will have a headache on the next round if opener rebids two of a minor (on a different layout). They will give a preference to 2, a bid that does little to help South. North has real heart support and his preference auction does not share that information with South. An immediate raise to 2 is much better, and on this hand it gets South to go on to 4. So the final auction is 1, Pass, 2, Pass, 4.

West leads the K. South has four possible losers and needs to get an extra trick out of the spade suit. How should South do that?

Drawing trump first is a bad idea. You need to use the heart honors as entries to dummy. If you reached for a trump at trick two, you will be in trouble against many possible layouts. Best, by far, is to start on spades at trick two. This raises the next question. What is your line of play going to be? Be specific.

If you saw the need to lead spades at trick two, that is well done. But if you led a spade to the ace, not so well done. Here is what happens if you lead a spade to the ace and give up a spade. The defenders will take two diamond winners and lead a club. You will win and will go to dummy with a heart. You will ruff a spade. They divide 4-2. So you go back to dummy and ruff another spade. That sets up a spade winner but another problem arises. East has three hearts, and that means you do not have an entry to dummy. Dummy does have the 6 but East has the 9. No entry there.

The correct play? Lead a spade at trick two and let the defense have the trick. They will take their two diamonds and will lead a club, but South is in charge against almost all layouts. South wins the club switch and plays ace and another spade, ruffing in hand with a high heart. Go to the Q and ruff another spade with a high heart. This sets up a spade trick and most importantly, this line leaves the jack of hearts to get to dummy. You can draw the last two trumps, ending in dummy, and can cash the last spade for trick 10.

Here is the entire hand.

♠ A 8 7 6 2
Q J 6
8 7 3
♣ 9 2
♠ K J ♠ Q 10 9 5
7 9 8 4
K Q J 4 10 6 5
♣ Q 10 7 6 5 3 ♣ K J 8
♠ 4 3
A K 10 5 3 2
A 9 2
♣ A 4

It is an ordinary layout in which spades divide 4-2 and hearts divide 3-1. There is nothing obscure about this layout. Make a point of remembering this spade combination.If you have to set up a trick in this suit, whether playing in a suit contract or a notrump contract, ducking the first round of the suit effectively gains you an entry. I would guess that ducking the first trick is correct on about 99% of the hands where you intend to lose a trick along the way to setting up a later winner. Are you worried that the suit might be 5-1, in which case the defense might later ruff your ace? The answer to this quibble is that if a 5-1 split is terminal to your contract, you should not worry about it.

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