The Real Deal


www.larryco.combridgecruises_lessons@larryco.com

A sure thing?

This deal was played by the Italian champion, Giorgio Belladonna.

With neither side vulnerable, IMP scoring, he was the dealer, holding:

♠A Q 10 8 6 5 4 3 J 6 4   A   ♣3

Although a bit on the heavy side, he chose to open 4♠. Everyone passed and the opening lead was the 6.

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

After winning your ace, how would you play?

Even with all of dummy’s assets, there is no obvious path to 10 sure tricks. If the ♠K is wrong, and hearts don’t behave, there is a possibility of losing a spade trick and three heart tricks.

For example, say you play a heart at trick two with the hope of ruffing your third heart in dummy. If left-hand opponent has the ace, all is well, but what if RHO wins dummy’s K with the ace and returns a trump? If you finesse and it loses, the defense can play another trump and prevent your heart ruff in dummy. You still might
have a club finesse in reserve. Also, after the K has lost to the A, you could later cross in clubs and lead dummy’s remaining heart up to your jack in case RHO has the Q.

But playing a heart to the king at trick two does not guarantee the contract. How about doing something with the club suit? What about a club to the queen at trick two? If it wins, you can throw a heart on the ♣A and take the spade finesse for an overtrick. But if the club finesse loses and a trump comes back, you might have troubles. If the spade finesse loses, the defense next plays a heart and you could easily lose two heart tricks.

How about a ruffing club finesse? If you play the ♣A and then run the ♣Q, it could lose to the king and a heart back along with a losing spade finesse could spell doom.

Can you find anything better? Maybe a way to guarantee the contract? After you’ve made your plan, look at the full deal:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
None
North
♠ J 9
K 3
10 7 5 2
♣ A Q J 10 2
West
♠ K 7
Q 9 75 2
Q 8 6
♣ 9 8 7
East
♠ 2
A 10 8
K J 9 4 3
♣ K 6 5 4
South
♠ A Q 10 8 6 5 4 3
J 6 4
A
♣ 3

How did you do? If you played a heart at trick two, East won the ace and returned a trump. If you finesse, West wins and returns a trump. If you win the ♠A to do anything else, West will eventually win the second heart and play his ♠K to remove dummy’s other trump. You lose the dreaded three heart tricks and one spade trick. If you try the club finesse at trick two,
East wins the ♣K. When West gets in with his ♠K and plays a heart, you need to have your guessing shoes on. If you play the ♣A at trick two and then the ♣Q for a ruffing finesse, you are in good shape if you make the right follow-up. However, all of these lines involve a guess and none of them are a sure thing.

How did Belladonna do? He didn’t rely on guesswork or on a friendly layout. He found a sure-trick line of play. At trick two he crossed to dummy’s ♣A and then led a low heart away from dummy’s K–3! Why is that a sure thing?

Let’s look at what might happen. If East plays any high heart on dummy’s 3 (not likely), then there are only two hearts to lose, so declarer loses
at most two hearts and a spade. If East plays a low heart (likely), declarer puts up the J. If it loses to the A, the deal is over. The worst that can happen is that LHO wins the Q. If he doesn’t shift to a trump at this point, declarer wins any return, surrenders a second heart and easily ruffs the third heart in dummy (losing at most two hearts and the ♠K).

So, when West wins his Q, he is forced to return a trump. If spades are 2–1, a trump return produces all eight trump tricks for declarer (no spade to lose). Even if the trump return is from ♠K–x–x, declarer is fine. He wins and plays the second heart. If East wins, he has no trumps left. If West wins, he can’t effectively play
a second round of trumps without squandering his trump trick.

So, playing a low heart from dummy was the sure path to 10 tricks. Did you find this brilliant (but logical) play?