The Real Deal


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Judge John

This deal was played in the Pacific Ocean on one of my bridge cruises. It was randomly dealt by computer for the duplicate game. The player was Judge John Weinberg, one of the best in our group. He held:

♠A Q 9 8 3 2   A Q 4   K Q 10   ♣5

With neither side vulnerable, he dealt and opened 1♠. His partner responded 2, natural and game forcing. Personally, I would have raised hearts, because partner has guaranteed five of them (a 2 response to 1♠ is the only 2/1 that guarantees five cards). Instead, Judge John repeated the six-card spade suit and his partner jumped to 4♠.

When already in a game force, such an action is weak. This is not to be confused, though, with “sign-off.” When opener has a good hand, such as this one, he can bid again.

John used Roman Key Card Blackwood for spades (4NT) and partner showed two key cards. Hoping for the K as well, John jumped to 6♠ and played there. The A was led, and here is what he saw:

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

After leading the A, West continues the suit. Assuming no 5–0 spade break (or diamond ruff ), declarer can count on 12 easy tricks. Thankfully,
East follows to both diamonds and declarer tests trumps. You don’t think you’d be reading about this deal if spades split 3–2 or 4–1, do you? On the first round, West discards a low club.
Now what?

You will need a trump coup against East. The first rule of trump coups is to reduce your trump length to that of your opponent. So, you play to the ♣A and ruff a club.

Now, you have to cash some red tricks and hope to be in dummy when you have ♠A Q 9 as your last three cards and East has ♠10 7 6 as his. The lead will come from dummy and East will not get a trump trick. In what order should you cash the red suits?

You are going to need East to have the heart length. If East has only two hearts, you are dead. No matter what order you cash winners in, you need East to follow to three rounds of hearts. Accordingly, you should play hearts before diamonds. Do not attempt to cash the third diamond winner.

In fact, East follows to three rounds of hearts (he started with J–x–x). Now, you simply cash the ♠J and run hearts through East. If he ruffs, you overruff and draw trumps. If he doesn’t ruff, you throw your high diamond and play another winner from dummy to coup East.

A look at the Real Deal shows what would have happened had you tried to cash your third diamond first:

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

As you can see, East would have ruffed the third diamond: down one. Because you needed East to have three hearts, it made no sense to play diamonds first. Once three hearts cashed, you were home free. For making the slam, Judge John got all the matchpoints. Only one other pair was in a slam. At that table, North declared 6 doubled. This Lightner double induced East to lead a spade (dummy’s first-bid suit). West ruffed and cashed the A for down one.