The Real Deal


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Not Hall-worthy

Even the world’s best have their bad moments. A newly-minted ACBL Hall-of-Famer (remaining nameless) had one on this deal from the 2019 Vanderbilt Teams. He held:

♠10 9   K Q 10 7 5 3 2  9 4  ♣5 4

At unfavorable vulnerability, his partner opened with a strong club. Right-hand opponent showed the minor suits, and eventually, the opponents sacrificed in 5 against 4. This propelled South into 5, against which West led the ♣J. The layout:

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

If both the ♠K and A are with LHO, all will be good. Declarer won the ♣A and drew trump, ending in hand (they were 2–2). He led another club (all following), losing to RHO’s ♣9, and a spade was returned to the 10, jack and queen. Declarer ruffed a club – LHO showed out – and ran some trumps. As you can see from the Real Deal, this was down one:

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

In addition to the club trick lost, declarer had to lose two diamonds.

Where did he go wrong?

He made an error that encompasses probably the most important theme in trump-suit contracts: “Should I draw trump?” The answer here should have been “No!” Why not? Dummy’s A J are precious entries.

Declarer should win the ♣A and return dummy’s ♣10 at trick 2. It’s important to play the 10 to keep West from winning the trick. Yes, East showed minors, but at this vulnerability, against a strong club, he could easily be only 4–4 or 5–4. If clubs turned out to be 5–1, nothing would be lost – declarer could still hope the ♠K and A were right. When, in fact, clubs turn out to be 4–2, there is no need for both finesses to work.

East can win, but there are still plenty of dummy entries. Declarer can use them to ruff a third club and then a fourth club. Once trumps are drawn, he can reach dummy by taking a spade finesse to throw a diamond on the fifth club. All he should lose is a trick in each minor for plus 650.

At the other table, South was allowed to play in 4. A diamond was led, which held the contract to 10 tricks