The Real Deal


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Red Herring

This deal was played in the 2017 Tarrytown Regional. South held:

♠ K 4 3  A J 5  K 4 3   ♣ A 10 4 3

He opened 1NT and partner transferred to 2♠. Responder next bid 3. Because the partnership is now forced to game, opener’s 3♠ is stronger than 4♠. With such good controls, opener bid 3♠. Responder now made a 4♣ control bid, opener bid 4 and after Roman key card Blackwood, the pair landed in 6♠. The 10 was led.

North
♠ Q 10 9 7 6 5
6
A Q J 10 9
♣ K
South
♠ K 4 3
A J 5
K 4 3
♣ A 10 4 3

Counting the losers from North’s perspective (the long-trump hand), the only issue is the trump suit. The best play is to lead low from dummy towards the king. Why?

If spades are 2–2, not much matters, and if there is a singleton ace, it is just as likely to be in either hand. But a 4–0 break, which occurs about 10 percent of the time, can be picked up only if West has four spades. Starting with a low spade to the king will reveal the position, whereas a low card from declarer’s side to dummy’s queen can’t pick up a 4–0 split if East holds all the outstanding trumps. Because all the 2–2 and 3–1 breaks are just guesses, declarer might as well play in the way that handles the relevant 4–0 break.

Declarer captured East’s Q with the ace, and not wanting to subject himself to a diamond ruff, crossed to the ♣K at trick two. He led a low trump from dummy and was rewarded when RHO showed out. Declarer put up the king and West took the ace. A heart was returned, and declarer realized he couldn’t make the contract. He ruffed in dummy. He could get back to his hand only once, but he needed two entries to take two spade finesses. This was the Real Deal:

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

After winning the A at trick one, declarer should ruff a heart in dummy to lead up to the ♠K, rather than entering dummy with the ♣K. Then, when the ♠K loses to the ace, declarer still has two entries: the K and the ♣A (by overtaking dummy’s ♣K). Dummy’s ♣K was a red herring. It tempted declarer into using it prematurely. If dummy’s club was a low singleton, it is likely declarer would not have been so careless with his entries.