The Real Deal


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All for naught

This Real Deal was played in the 2012 U.S. Team Trials. With both sides vulnerable, South held:

♠J 7 6 5 4 3   A K 7 2   A   ♣6 4;

East opens 1. This is a normal 1♠ overcall. Left-hand opponent bids a natural 1NT and your partner raises to 2♠. RHO bids 3. Because there is a premium on bidding vulnerable games at IMPs, it is possible to jump to 4♠, but that seems a bit much. Over a 3 game try, partner will likely know to go to game if he has enough useful cards. In fact, he does jump to 4♠, and West leads a low diamond:

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

All of partner’s 7 high-card points (not to mention the fourth trump) look potentially useful.

How should you plan the play?

Assuming two trump losers, it looks like the ♣A needs to be onside. There is also the hope that West might have ♠K 10 doubleton and guess wrong when declarer leads a low trump from hand (he might go up with the king, crashing his partner’s ace). So, should declarer win the A and play a low spade from hand, trying to induce the crash?

If you are willing to give up on that possible deceptive play, there is a nice technical line of play available. If West has both the ♠A K, there is no chance — the ♣A will surely be wrong. But, with the spade honors split, you have a great extra chance. How about stripping
East’s exit cards so that when he wins his supposed singleton spade honor, he will be endplayed?

You must cash the hearts first, but there is not much worry. West would have made a negative double (as opposed to bidding 1NT) with four hearts. So there is no danger in trying to cash three heart tricks. If West has only two hearts, you are still okay if he has the ♣A; he will ruff the third heart, get his ♣A, but then the remaining spades will be 1–1, so you will have only one loser there.

Anyway, upon winning the A and laying down the K (a nice ploy to get the defense to give count), they both show an odd number of hearts, confirming your suspicions that they were 3–3. The rest is easy.

Cash another high heart from hand, cross to the Q and ruff a diamond to eliminate that suit. Now the coup de grace: Exit with a spade. East, who started with the singleton ♠A, is endplayed.

This was the full deal:

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

If declarer plays a trump at trick two (and West works out to play low), the contract fails. East exits safely in a red suit and declarer has to eventually lose two spades and two clubs. On the actual line, East was endplayed at trick six: Declarer won the A, cashed three hearts, ruffed a diamond and exited in spades.

Okay, now for the sad truth. While I played it this way at the table, it was all a big waste of time. The diagram has been changed a little — some of the minor-suit honors were the other way around. On the Real Deal, West held the ♣A all along, so any old fool could have made this one.