The Real Deal


Staying Awake

This deal comes from the 2010 Naples FL Regional. Playing in a knockout event, you hold:

♠ Q 9 7     K 7 6 5 4   Q 9 2   ♣ 6 3

Left-hand opponent opens 1 and your partner, vulnerable against not, overcalls 2♣. RHO passes. And you? Red against white at IMPs, you strive
to reach game, but this hand just doesn’t have enough meat to take action. (Note: If you did take action, make sure your partnership knows if 2 would be forcing or non-forcing.) LHO reopens with a takeout double. Your partner passes, and RHO bids 2. It would be nice if the opponents
played in hearts, but LHO has other ideas. He removes to 2♠. RHO corrects to 3; which ends the auction.

Partner leads the ♣Q and you see:

♠ K 8 2
Q 9 8 2 You
5 4 3 ♠ Q 9 7
♣ 5 4 2 K 7 6 5 4
Q 9 2
♣ 6 3
West North East South
2♣ Pass Pass Dbl
Pass 2 Pass 2♠
Pass 3 All Pass

On the ♣Q, you play the 6 (high–low with a doubleton; if instead you play low, partner might think you have a singleton).

Declarer wins the ♣A and plays the K to your partner’s ace. Partner persists with another club to declarer’s king, and declarer plays the J to your queen (partner following low).Are you awake? What’s going on?

Brute logic and concentration provides lots of information. We know all of the following:

  1. Declarer almost surely started with a doubleton ♣A K. Partner wasn’t likely to overcall with a five-card suit on the two level vulnerable, and even if he did, it isn’t likely declarer
    would have made a takeout double holding three clubs.
  2. Since partner followed to two rounds of diamonds, it seems declarer started with K J 10 x x.
  3. Why did declarer play diamonds this way? He probably has only one quick dummy entry (the ♠K) and would have needed two entries to pick up Q x x (x) onside. He decided it was unlikely you started with exactly Q x.
  4. Declarer’s bidding showed four spades, so by now, you expect he is exactly 4=2=5=2.

So in with your Q, you play …?

Part of declarer’s reasoning for keeping the ♠K in dummy could easily be that it is an entry to the hearts. Your heart spots tell you that declarer can likely set up two heart winners
in dummy. You need to attack spades before the hearts are set up. Did you figure out which spade to shift to? I hope it was the ♠9, for this is the Real Deal:

Dlr: South ♠ K 8 2
Vul: E-W Q 9 8 2
5 4 3
♣ 5 4 2
♠ J 6 5 ♠ Q 9 7
A 10 K 7 6 5 4
A 8 Q 9 2
♣ Q J 10 9 8 7 ♣ 6 3
♠ A 10 4 3
J 3
K J 10 7 6
♣ A K

On your ♠9 shift, declarer is dead. If he covers with the 10, your partner plays the jack and dummy wins the king. You have to get a spade trick later to go with two hearts and two
diamonds for down one.

If declarer wins the ♠9 with his ace, the defense can easily set up another spade trick in time.

If you don’t shift to spades at all, declarer has time to set up two heart
tricks to throw his spade losers.

If you carelessly shift to a low spade, declarer plays low from hand and partner’s jack is trapped. You need to play the ♠9 to neutralize
dummy’s ♠8. This is a subtle example of what is commonly known as a “surrounding play.” A more familiar example is when, looking at dummy’s 10–x–x, you shift to the jack from K–J–9 hoping to find declarer with the queen and your partner with the ace.

I wanted to call this article “Surround Sound,” but I think that would have been too big of a hint. If you missed this play, don’t feel bad. An expert at the table got it wrong, as did
other good players who were given this problem.