3-2 or 4-1?
This deal is from a Swiss teams match at the 2013 Orlando Regional.
Vulnerable against not, South held:
♠A Q 9 7 6 ♥A K 6 3 ♦8 4 ♣K 4
West, his left-hand opponent, opened 1♥, which was followed by partner’s 2♦ overcall. After RHO’s pass, South bid 2♠. It is important to know if your partnership plays this call as forcing. (If not, South would have to find a different call). I prefer new suits to be forcing after a two-level overcall. After 2♠, South’s partner jumped to 4♥!
What’s this? It must be a splinter bid, showing spade support and short hearts. South now used Roman Key Card Blackwood, and upon learning that only one keycard was missing, he bid 6♠.
West led the ♥Q. Surely, from West’s opening bid, the ♣A is wrong. Declarer must focus on both the spades and diamonds. If both suits are 3–2, there are 13 easy tricks. The next logical thought should be, “What if both suits are not 3–2?”
If diamonds are 4–1, the suit can be set up by ruffing one, but that would then require an entry. Spades would need to be 3–2 and would have to be drawn ending in dummy.
If spades are 4–1, the suit can be picked up in some situations. For example, if West was dealt a singleton jack or 10, declarer could lay down the ace, then cross to the king and take a marked finesse to the 9.
With all that in mind, what is the best way to play this slam?
The winning play is to try to combine as many chances as possible. Win the ♥A and lay down the ♠A. Assuming nothing interesting happens (no jack or 10), continue with the ♠Q. If one player has J–10–x–x, you are probably down. But everyone follows, so you are alive. What next?
If diamonds are also 3–2, you will soon claim, so you have to again ask, “What if diamonds are 4–1?”
The answer is that if the player with one diamond happens to have only two spades, you can still make the contract. Don’t draw the last trump yet. Play two top diamonds. If everyone follows, play the ♠K and claim. If the suit is 4–1 (and you are lucky enough that nobody could ruff in), you can now ruff a low diamond in hand to set up the suit, and then cross to the ♠K to run the diamonds and make 12 tricks: five spades, five diamonds and the ♥A K.
This was the Real Deal from Orlando:
After laying down the top two spades, declarer played as suggested to make his contract. The full deal shows that West could have made a spectacular falsecard. On declarer’s ♠A, what if West were to throw the ♠J, which couldn’t hurt? Now, declarer might take the bait and play for 4–1 spades. If he next crossed to the ♠K, he would no longer be able to make the contract. Try it!