The Real Deal


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Judge John Again

For the second spring in a row, Judge John Weinberg created a Real Deal lesson for me while cruising. This time, we were off the coast of Malaysia when this deal arose in the duplicate game (computer-dealt hands):

♠ 10 9 6    Q    9 8 3   ♣ K Q J 10 9 7

RHO opened a 15–17 1NT. John bid 2♣ to show any one-suiter. North bid 2 (transfer to hearts – systems on in competition). RHO duly bid 2.

John passed this around to his partner who competed with 3♣. Presumably this meant: “Partner, I want to play in your suit. If it is clubs, please pass.” This sort of follow-up requires discussion by serious partnerships. John was happy with 3♣ but LHO competed to 3 and everyone passed. What would you lead?

Dlr:
South
Vul:
Both
Dummy
♠ A 8 3
J 10 6 5 4 2
7 4
♣ 8 6
John
♠ 10 9 6
Q
9 8 3
♣ K Q J 10 9 7

There was no compelling reason to lead anything but the ♣K. Declarer won the ace, partner following with the 4. Declarer played the A and another heart. Partner won the K, cashed theK and the A and then switched to the ♣2. Now what?

If partner wanted a diamond ruff, she (his wife, Sheri) should have played the A K in that unusual order. Furthermore, if partner had only two diamonds, that would mean declarer had six diamonds – not too likely. So John played another club. This was the full deal:

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

Let’s review the play in 3. Declarer won the ♣K lead with the ace (an error). He played the A and another heart to East’s king. East cashed the diamond winners and played her remaining club. John’s third round of clubs successfully promoted a trump trick for East. Declarer tried to ruff in dummy, but East overruffed with the 9 for down one.

Competitive bidding and effective defense led to a plus score for East–West. There is, however, one more lesson to be learned. On general principles, declarer should have ducked the opening lead. Such plays often disrupt the defensive communications. Here, if South refuses to take the first club, there is no way to defeat the contract.