The Real Deal


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Best try for a 12th

For the sixth week in a row, our Real Deal comes from the 2018 U.S. Bridge Championships. South, vulnerable against not, held:

♠K 10 3   Q 7 4 2  A Q 3  ♣A J 2

Right-hand opponent dealt and opened 3. As they say, “It is dangerous to bid, but it is dangerous to pass.” South overcalled 3NT, raised to 6NT by partner. How should you play after a diamond lead?

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

In notrump, I recommend counting top tricks. Here, you can count on 11 (clubs are sure to run). How should you try for the 12th?

One declarer won the K and played the 5 at trick two. Do you like that play? The preempter could have the K, but these days, a white on red preempt doesn’t really show anything. It must be better to play on spades. Why?

If spades are 3–3 (or doubleton ♠Q J), you have 12 tricks. Admittedly, a 3–3 break is less likely than the 50–50 K play. But even if spades aren’t 3–3, there is a great second chance. If the player with long spades has the K, you will fall into your 12th trick.

Here is the Real Deal:

Dlr:
East
Vul:
N-S
North
♠ A 6 5 4
A 5
K 2
♣ K Q 9 7 5
West
♠ Q 8 7 2
K J 8 6
8
♣ 10 8 6 4
East
♠ J 9
10 9 3
J 10 9 7 6 5 4
♣ 3
South
♠ K 10 3
Q 7 4 2
A Q 3
♣ A J 2

As you can see, the declarer who led a low heart at trick two went down. West took the K and there were only 11 tricks. Declarer’s team lost 13 IMPs (the other table was in game) instead of winning 13.

In a different match – all matches used the same deals – declarer led a spade to the 10 at trick two. It lost to the queen, and West returned a spade. Declarer won the ♠K, cashed the clubs and the A, and then took his diamonds. This was the remaining position:

Dlr:
East
Vul:
N-S
North
♠ A 6
5
♣ —
West
♠ 8 7
K
♣ —
East
♠ —
10 9
J
♣ —
South
♠ 3
Q
Q
♣ —

On the play of the last diamond, West has to abandon one of the majors. As long as spades were 3–3, or the player with the long spades had the K (as here), the contract makes. This is a much better shot than putting all the eggs into the K onside basket.