Pay Attention


Pat Harrington

Plan your play in 3NT with the pair of hands shown below. The opening lead is the 5. The hands may look familiar to you (see last week’s article) but your opponents’ hands are slightly different.

♠6 4 2
J 10 4
A J 8 6 5 2
♣9

♠J 10 9 3
A K
K 7 4
♣ A K 6 5

West North East South
1♣
Pass 1 Pass 2NT
Pass 3NT All Pass

Opening lead: 5.

We count winners and see two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. Last time we saw that the diamond suit offered the chance to develop the needed three tricks. Your hand and dummy have not changed, so your plan has not changed either — at least not yet. Because dummy lacks any entry outside the diamond suit, we decided to ignore the saying “eight ever, nine never,” which suggests playing for the Q to drop. Our plan is to cash the K and then finesse the J. Whether the finesse wins or loses is not our main concern. Our goal is to have an entry to North’s hand when the diamonds are ready to run. An entry is a combination of a winner in the hand you want to reach plus a lower card in the opposite hand. North has no entry outside of diamonds, so your entry
is made up of South’s last diamond combined with a diamond winner in dummy. You must have a diamond in the South hand when you are ready to run diamonds.

Here is how things are different from last month’s deal. When you play the K, West follows with the 3, and East shows out. How is that development going to affect your plan?

Diamonds can still be developed. In fact, you are sure that the finesse of the J will work. So what’s the problem? If, on the second round of diamonds, you take that finesse, you
will go down! Remember, the diamonds have to be ready to run when you lead your last diamond. West had four diamonds. The only way to have an entry to diamonds once they are good is to lead a second diamond and let West have it, no matter what card West plays — even the queen.

The opponents are in, but they cannot take enough tricks to beat you because you got right to work on diamonds at trick two. You regain the lead and, at this point, you are down to one diamond, West is down to two.
Lead your last diamond and play either the ace or jack, depending on the card played by West. Some players would go down simply because they failed to pay attention to the fact that East didn’t have any diamonds.
Once a duplicate player turns his played card face down, he has given up the right to ask to see the cards his opponents played to that trick. Make sure the cards your opponents played have registered in your mind before
you turn your own card face down.

The complete deal:

The full deal:

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

Now let’s change just one of North’s diamond spots. The contract is still 3NT with the 5 opening lead. You still get right to work on diamonds, playing the K, and East shows out. Suppose this is now your dummy:

♠6 4 2
J 10 4
A J 9 6 5 2
♣9

West still has four diamonds. Do you know what they are? You do if you didn’t turn over that first diamond trick too quickly. West started with the Q 10 8 3 and followed with the 3. West still has the Q 10 8. South still has two low diamonds. This time, there is no need to let West have a trick. His diamonds can be finessed! Lead the 4 and simply beat whatever West plays. If West plays the 8, you play dummy’s 9. West will be left with the Q 10. Come back to your hand and lead your last diamond (the 7). West’s queen is trapped by dummy’s A–J and you come home with six diamond tricks for an overtrick in 3NT. You accomplished this feat simply by paying attention to the cards your opponents played and realizing that dummy had every one of West’s diamonds covered. Pay attention. Concentrate. You will win more often.<?p>