The Real Deal


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Greed is a terrible thing

This deal was played by Jesse Reisman (who directs on many of my cruises) at the Shrine Center Bridge Club in Livingston NJ. With both sides vulnerable, in fourth seat you pick up:

♠ K Q J 10   A K 5    Q 6 5   ♣ A 8 7

After two passes, your right-hand opponent opens 1. I like 1NT overcalls, especially vulnerable, to be up to 18 points. This hand is 19, so it’s a bit too strong. Therefore, I’d start with a double, planning to bid notrump next round. After your double, LHO raises to 2, passed back to you.

could see an argument for doubling again, or maybe bidding the chunky four-card spade suit. Even passing – hoping to collect 200 – is possible. Jesse, however, followed through with the notrump plan and chose 2NT. Everyone passed and the 8 was led:

North
♠ A 7 6
J 9 6 2
10 9 2
♣ 10 3 2
South
♠ K Q J 10
A K 5
Q 6 5
♣ A 8 7

Dummy has quite a lot; a raise to 3NT was surely a possibility. RHO wins the K, A and plays the J. This is welcome defense, as you now have eight top tricks. What do you think the opposing distribution is?

Actually, you have a clue at trick one. LHO made a vulnerable raise to 2. It is most unlikely he would have done so with only three low diamonds. It looks like he has 8 x x x.

Why would RHO open a three-card diamond suit? Usually this indicates 4=4=3=2 distribution (in that order), although it’s not a sure thing. He was in third seat and might have preferred A K J to direct the opening lead.

With eight sure tricks, you might as well try for an additional trick in hearts. On your A K, LHO drops the Q on the second round. That means RHO started with 10 x x x. You’re now up to nine tricks.

Greed is a terrible thing. Throwing RHO in to lead away from his 10–x in the ending would provide 10 tricks – plus 180 for a great matchpoint score.

What’s the problem with this plan? A good East player will unblock clubs from, say, ♣K x, to avoid the endplay. But if he doesn’t unblock, or if he started with two honors doubleton, he is in trouble. To make it harder for him to unblock, let’s say you cross to dummy’s ♠A and lead a low club. RHO plays low. So much for two honors doubleton. You win your ♣A and cash the spades, RHO following to all of them, further confirming his 4=4=3=2 shape.

In the ending, you have J 9 and a club in the dummy. If RHO’s last three cards are ♣K and 10 x, you can play a club and make your extra overtrick. Should you? Are you still with me?

Jesse went for it (somewhat insulting his RHO for failing to unblock).

This was the Real Deal:

North
♠ A 7 6
J 9 6 2
10 9 2
♣ 10 3 2
West
♠ 9 2
Q 8
8 7 4 3
♣ K J 9 6 5
East
♠ 8 5 4 3
10 7 4 3
A K J
♣ Q 4
South
♠ K Q J 10
A K 5
Q 6 5
♣ A 8 7

Let’s review the play. East started with the K, the A and the J to declarer’s queen. Declarer cashed the top hearts and five top black cards. In the three-card ending, East was down to 10 7 and ♣Q.

When declarer exited with a club, West’s last three cards were ♣K J and the long diamond. Had West lazily followed with the ♣J, East would have had to win his ♣Q and concede 10 tricks.

West, however, was on the ball and figured out to rise with his ♣K! This swallowed his partner’s ♣Q, preventing the endplay. West took the last three tricks, holding declarer to 120. This defensive play is called a Crocodile Coup: opening the jaws wide to swallow partner’s honor. The West hero was Will Ehlers, an expert playing with one of his students. After the deal, East thanked West for his alertness in taking her off the endplay.