The Real Deal

Trouble in the big city

This deal was played as the Mark Gordon team practiced in New York City. Two many-time national champions (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) held this hand:

♠—   A K 8   A 9 8 4 3   ♣A K 9 4 3

With neither side vulnerable, they dealt and opened 1. Left-hand opponent preempted with 2♠ and opener’s partner raised to 3. RHO now competed with 3♠. Both openers rebid 4♣ and eventually landed in 7! Here is what they saw::

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

Please don’t ask for the full auction, because it wasn’t given to me. I will say that the final contract is a great one. If trumps are 2–2, it is a claim. Even with 3–1 trumps, declarer is likely to make the grand slam by ruffing one heart in dummy and hoping to take five club tricks.

If you’re thinking dummy reversal (always a good idea to look for those on problem deals), forget about it. There aren’t enough dummy entries to make it work.

I’ll start you out. You ruff the opening lead (good play!) and test trumps. You can’t pick up either 4–0 break (that’s not the trick to this deal). Trumps turn out to be 3–1 (with the preemptor having the singleton). And now? .

Both declarers went astray. They played the A and a club to the queen. What’s wrong with that, you ask?

Before playing clubs, how could it hurt to test the hearts? Had declarer played A K and ruffed a heart, he would have gained valuable information. East started with six hearts. Assuming spades are 6–3 (from the preempt and raise), declarer has a blueprint of the hand. West seems to be 6=2=1=4. East seems to be 3=6=3=1. Declarer should lay down the ♣A and finesse to the ♣10 to make the contract.

This was the Real Deal (human dealt) from the New York City practice match:

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

You can see where both national champions failed. When they played the ♣A and then the ♣Q, they soon had to go down. There was only one trump in dummy to handle the long club and the heart loser.

Testing hearts first would have led to the winning play. I guess they needed the practice.