The Real Deal


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Missed by both experts

This deal was played in the top knockout bracket of the 2016 Gatlinburg Regional. Both expert declarers went wrong. See if you can do better. South held:

♠ A 10 9  A J 5  10 6 5   ♣ A K 10 6

Vulnerable against not, two passes are followed by a 1 opening on your right. You overcall 1NT and partner uses 2♣, Stayman. You answer 2 and partner bids 3NT. The 6 is led and you see:

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

Declarer has only five top tricks. If the K Q are with right-hand opponent, that means six tricks. A spade finesse could produce at least two more. Clubs could produce an extra trick, and the diamonds also are a source of tricks. The stopper situation is shaky. Do you have two heart stoppers? What is your plan?

East plays the Q and both expert declarers won the ace. Next they played a diamond to the king and ace. Back came a low heart. If you think the opening leader has something like K–x–x, you can block the suit by playing low. LHO would have to win the third round with the king and RHO would have no entry. On the other hand, if you play low on round two of hearts, and RHO actually started with the king-queen, you will never get your J. Both declarers guessed to play the jack, reasonably playing the opening bidder for K–Q–x–x–x. The jack won the trick. Now what? Let’s look at the Real Deal:

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

The 6 lead went to the queen and ace. A diamond to the king lost to the ace and a low heart was won by declarer’s jack. We can see that declarer can make the contract by guessing well in both minors (finessing against both jacks). That would give him four clubs, two diamonds, two hearts and the ♠A. Without the benefit of seeing all four hands, both declarers naturally relied on the simple spade finesse through the opening bidder. They crossed to the ♣Q and led the ♠Q. If the finesse had won, they’d have had at least three spades, two hearts, one diamond and three clubs for the contract. When it lost, West returned a heart; down one.

Where did declarer go wrong? Not by taking the reasonable spade finesse, but at trick one. If he was going to always play RHO for the K Q, it is best to duck the first trick. Why does that matter? East plays a heart at trick two, won by the jack. Now a diamond goes to the king and ace. East clears hearts, but West has no hearts left. When declarer goes to dummy for the spade finesse, West takes the king, but has no hearts left. Declarer easily makes the contract. This was just your basic holdup play.