The Real Deal


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Roadmap

See if you can do better than a 30-time national champion on this deal from the 2017 Vanderbilt teams. At unfavorable vulnerability, South held:

♠ K 7  K Q J 9 8 4  6 3 2   ♣ K Q

His partner opened 1 and right-hand opponent, a known sound player, overcalled 2, Michaels. Maybe a direct 3NT is possible, but South doubled to show penalty interest (but even in his wildest dreams, the opponents won’t play in hearts). LHO bid 3♠ and this is passed back to South, who now tries 3NT. Everyone passes.

Surprisingly, the opening lead is the 10 (standard) and you see:

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

What is going on? Why didn’t they lead a spade? How will you play?

With any normal spade holding, like Q–x–x–x or J–x–x–x, West would have led a spade. Likely he has the ♠A and knew from the bidding that you had the ♠K. Had he led a spade, you would have had nine top tricks if the diamond finesse is on. With this clever lead, even if the diamond finesse wins, you have only eight. A 3–3 diamond break would see you to nine, but that’s highly unlikely.

Our expert took the diamond finesse at trick one. That was fine – in fact on dummy’s J, East follows suit with the 4. Next, declarer played a heart from dummy, trying to sneak his ninth trick. RHO was up to the task. He rose with the A and shifted to the ♠Q to set the contract. This was the Real Deal:

North
♠ 5 3
7 6
A Q J 7
♣ A J 10 9 7
West
♠ A 10 9 6
K 10 9 8 5
♣ 6 5 3 2
East
♠ Q J 8 4 2
A 10 5 3 2
4
♣ 8 4
South
♠ K 7
K Q J 9 8 4
6 3 2
♣ K Q

Granted, East made a good play when he grabbed his A, but declarer shouldn’t have allowed him the chance. The bidding and lead gave him a roadmap to the winning line. Declarer should cross in clubs at trick two and repeat the diamond finesse. Next come all the clubs and the A to leave:

North
♠ 5 3
7 6
7
♣ —
West
♠ A 10 9
K 9
♣ —
East
♠ Q J 8
A
♣ —
South
♠ K 7
K Q J
♣ —

Declarer plays his losing diamond from dummy and West has to lead from his ♠A after all.