The Real Deal


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A Hall‑of‑Famer misplayed this deal against me at the 2009 Las Vegas Regional. See if you can do better. Your hand is:

♠A 3   10 7 5 4 3   K J 4   ♣K J 10

With nobody vulnerable, your partner opens 1. Right‑hand opponent passes and you respond 1. LHO overcalls 1♠, partner passes and RHO raises to 2♠. Because you are playing support doubles, your partner’s pass denies three‑card support for hearts. What would you do?

There are several possibilities. I prefer a double which, at a low level, just shows values. You could also bid 2NT or 3NT, although you’d prefer a little more meat in spades. Anyway,
the Hall‑of‑Famer (I name names only when the player is a hero) chose 2NT. This is a slight underbid, but his partner came through and raised him to 3NT. A spade was led and this was the layout:

Dlr: North ♠ K 6
Vul: None A 8
A Q 8 7 6
♣ 9 8 6 5
♠ A 3
10 7 5 4 3
K J 4
♣ K J 10
West
Berkowitz
North
HOF partner
East
Cohen
South
HOFer
1 Pass 1
1♠ Pass 2♠ 2NT
Pass 3NT All Pass

Assuming diamonds aren’t 5–0, you have eight top tricks. How should you try for a ninth?

The unnamed HOFer won the opening spade lead in dummy and played a club. RHO played low and declarer guessed to insert the jack. LHO won the queen, and a spade came back. This led to down one. Here was the full deal:

Dlr: North ♠ K 6
Vul: None A 8
A Q 8 7 6
♣ 9 8 6 5
♠ Q 10 8 5 2 ♠ J 9 7 4
Q 9 6 2 K J
9 2 10 5 3
♣ A Q ♣ 7 4 3 2
♠ A 3
10 7 5 4 3
K J 4
♣ K J 10

As you can see, both clubs were wrong — declarer had only his eight top tricks. When West won the ♣Q, he cleared spades. The defense had five tricks established. So, with both clubs wrong, how can declarer make 3NT?

When in doubt, try running your long suit first. Sometimes you don’t run your long suit because it allows the defenders to signal. On this deal, however, they already know to attack spades, so there is no mystery. Running your long suit might cause some awkward discarding problems.

In fact, what can West throw if declarer runs the diamonds before playing clubs? West must make a total of three discards. If he parts with just one spade, the defense is doomed (declarer can set up clubs and lose only two clubs and two spades). So West must cling to all his spades. A club discard is also fatal — declarer simply knocks out the other club and has lots of tricks.

So, West’s three discards all have to be hearts. Now, declarer can forget about clubs and just play A and another to set up his ninth trick in hearts. Try it!

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