The Real Deal


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A Sneaky ♠8

This deal comes from a 2012 Florida regional knockout event. My long-time bridge partner, David Berkowitz, held this South hand:

♠ A K J 9 6 5    Q 6 5    A   ♣ A K 5

Playing Precision with his current partner, Alan Sontag, he opened with a strong 1♣. I’ll get back to his contract later, but let’s try this hand in Standard bidding. If you open 2♣, partner responds 2 waiting. Right-hand opponent overcalls 3 and you bid 3♠. Partner bids 4♣. For better or worse, you guess to raise to 5♣, and partner carries on to a club slam. Hopefully, he has hearts under control.

In the Berkowitz auction, he also faced a heart preempt from RHO and ended in 6♣. A low heart is led and you see:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
N-S
North
♠ 10 2
2
K 7 4 2
♣ Q J 10 9 3 2
South
♠ A K J 9 6 5
Q 6 5
A
♣ A K 5

Partner has great trumps and the desired heart control. This looks fairly easy. RHO wins the K and shifts to the ♠8. Over to you.

How about winning the ♠A and drawing trumps? If you do, West has three clubs and East has one. Then, you play another spade. If RHO shows out, you go up with ♠K and have a marked ruffing finesse against the ♠Q, with the A to get back to hand. What if East follows low to the second spade? Then, you go up with the ♠K, and if they are 3–2, you ruff to set up the suit.

So, what can go wrong? A look at the full deal shows you that East’s ♠8 was a sneaky play:

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

East won the K and shifted to the ♠8 at trick two — a nice deceptive play. Assume you draw trumps and play another spade from dummy. You’d have no way of knowing to finesse, so you would go up on the second spade. There is no recovery. You can no longer set up the spades (you have only one entry left to hand). Down you’d go.

There was a better and safer line of play. Berkowitz, not wishing to rely on the spades, won the ♠A at trick two, but didn’t draw trumps. He cashed the A, ruffed a heart, ruffed a low diamond from dummy high in hand, ruffed his last heart and ruffed another low diamond high in hand. Now, he played his ♣5 to dummy’s high club, drew trumps and claimed. In effect, he ruffed dummy’s two diamond losers with the ♣A K. After drawing trumps, there was no need to rely on the spade suit.

Why trust a potentially sneaky opponent if you don’t have to?.