The Real Deal


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Safety at Sea

This deal was human-dealt in the Swiss teams on my recent Quebec City to New York Sectional at Sea.

South held:

♠ 7    A Q 7    A K 9 6 5   ♣ K Q 5 3

Vulnerable against not, he opened 1. His left-hand opponent preempted to 3♠. Partner passed and RHO raised to 4♠. South doubled and his partner removed to 5. Everyone passed and the ♠K was led:

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

The defense led high spades, declarer ruffing the second round. If trumps are 2–2, declarer will be able to make 12 tricks. But at IMPs, declarer needs to first make sure of his contract and not worry about overtricks.

If he lays down a top diamond and they are 4–0, he will fail in his diamond game. Accordingly, he should take a safety play to guard against East holding Q J 10 7 (surely possible on the bidding). At trick three, declarer should lead a low diamond towards dummy’s 8. If everyone follows, declarer will win any return and draw trumps and claim. On the actual deal, West shows out on the first trump!

Dummy’s 8 forces East’s 10 and the ♣J is returned. Now what?

Declarer’s work is not finished. Yes, he can win in dummy, finesse diamonds, go back to the K and finesse again in diamonds. But, what about the fourth club?

If clubs (or hearts) are 3–3, there will be no problem. But, if East has four (or more clubs), trouble lurks. If West has short clubs (two or fewer), he will have at least four hearts. There will be nowhere to put the club loser.

So, before drawing trumps, declarer should test clubs, ending in dummy. If they are 3–3, he can play diamonds and soon claim. A look at the full deal shows why it is necessary to play clubs before drawing the rest of the trumps:

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

After two rounds of spades, South correctly plays a diamond to the 8 and 10. East returns a club and declarer plays three rounds of clubs ending in dummy. Had clubs been 4–2 the other way, there was never a way to make the contract. On the actual layout, declarer After two rounds of spades, South correctly plays a diamond to the 8 and 10. East returns a club and declarer plays three rounds of clubs ending in dummy. Had clubs been 4–2 the other way, there was never a way to make the contract. On the actual layout, declarer

At the other table in the Swiss match, North passed South’s double of 4♠ and collected only 100 on defense. On a diamond lead, West can actually make 4♠.

Note: Astute readers might be wondering why not try for 3–3 hearts instead of 3–3 clubs. Isn’t that just as likely?

Yes, it is. Declarer can win East’s ♣J with the ace and play a trump, East splitting. Declarer can win and try A, Q and a low heart to the king in dummy. If the suit splits 3–3, he can lead dummy’s fourth heart with decisive effect. However, there is no fallback plan if hearts don’t break. Meanwhile, playing clubs works not only when they are 3–3, but when East has four.