Usually, my article titles refer to the bridge deal, but this one comes from the circumstances. On our Lisbon-to-Miami cruise, a passenger broke her ankle. The captain decided to go backwards 500 miles so she could get to a hospital. When something like this happens, my group loves it – we just add an extra duplicate game! While in reverse, this deal was played.
At favorable vulnerability, South dealt and held:
♠ J 7 6 ♥ 2 ♦ A 9 8 ♣ A K J 8 7 2
She opened 1♣ and partner responded 1♠. Infrequently I raise with three-card support, and usually only if I am stuck. Here, South can rebid a comfortable 2♣. Her partner now bid 2♦. South bid 2♠ to show the three-card spade support. Partner next bid 3♣.
What’s going on? Why is partner torturing us? This is a hard auction to define or teach, but partner’s sequence should be forcing. She didn’t raise 2♣ to 3♣ directly, which would show invitational values. She bid a new suit first, then raised. Over 3♣, you have several choices, but since you’ve already raised spades and shown the six-card club suit, I like 3♦ – a suit where you have some cards/values. Partner now raises to 5♣, ending the discussion. The opening lead is the ♥Q and you see:
What is your plan? As usual, I like to count losers – not winners – in a suit contract. You have no problems in clubs or hearts, but what are you going to do with your two low diamonds and the potential spade loser?
If diamonds behave (3–3 would be easiest), you can set up dummy’s fourth diamond for a spade discard. Alternatively, you could play on spades, hoping to discard a diamond on dummy’s fourth spade.
But if you play on diamonds or spades unsuccessfully, you might have trouble. For example, if you lead low from dummy towards your ♠J and it loses to the ♠Q, and later the ♠10 doesn’t fall under the ♠A K, you are likely down. Leading the ♠J from hand won’t work on many layouts, for example, ♠Q 10 x x with East.
If you play diamonds first and they behave badly, you may lose two of them and eventually a spade at the end.
It turns out, there is a sure thing. Maybe I misled you when I said you had to lose two “low” diamonds. Because the spots are the 8 and the 9, you have an advantage.
Win the ♥A, draw trumps ending in dummy and lead a diamond. If East plays an honor, you are home free. Capture the honor and drive out the other two diamond honors for a spade discard.
And if East doesn’t play an honor? Simply play one of your low diamonds. Your LHO will win the trick and he has to help you. He is out of trumps. A heart would let you ruff in dummy and throw a loser from your hand. If he plays another diamond, you play low from dummy and East has to play another honor, after which you can drive out the third diamond honor for the spade discard. Lastly, if West plays a spade, you play low from dummy. If East plays the ♠Q, you have three spade tricks and a parking place for your last low diamond. If East doesn’t play the ♠Q, you won’t lose a spade trick.
So, drawing trumps ending in dummy and leading a diamond, planning on inserting the 9 is a 100% line of play. Anything West returns gives you 11 tricks. This was the Real Deal: