FantasyLand By Liam Milne

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Some contracts look pretty good when the dummy comes down. However, four spades, from the 2016 World Youth Teams Bridge Championships, is not one of them.

By Ana Roth
On 11 February, 2017 At 12:41

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IBPA Newsletter Febrero 2017

Board 22. Dealer East. EW Vul.

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1. 2+ clubs

2. 4+ spades

3. Minimum opening with 4 spades

4. Game try

Liam Milne

Liam Milne

Some contracts look pretty good when the dummy comes down. However, four spades, from the 2016 World Youth Teams Bridge Championships, is not one of them. South leads the queen of hearts and continues with the jack of hearts. How should you, as East, play?

There are a number of issues to consider. To start, there are three unavoidable top losers. You can’t afford to lose a second trump trick, so you’ll need a doubleton ace somewhere. In addition, your side suit needs a bit of love: you need clubs 3-2, and there is the small matter of locating the club queen. Finally, you are in danger of losing trump control: the opponents have led hearts and they’ll get in at least once more to shorten the trumps in East.

With his dubious heart holding, the overcaller is more likely to have the trump ace than his partner. If you ruff at trick two, cross to the king of clubs, lead a spade to the queen, then duck a spade to North’s ace, he can continue with the ace of hearts to make you ruff again. Having contributed trumps to tricks two through five, you will be out of trumps at this point, while South still holds one and dummy the king-low. If the club queen started life as a doubleton, you will make it home from here by running clubs through South – a trump substitution play. You’ll over-ruff South in the dummy and get back to hand in diamonds.

What if the clubs aren’t so generously laid out for you? If a defender holds the queen-third of clubs, drawing trumps straight away is not going to work because of the continuing heart tap. If South holds the protected lady, the key move will be to finesse the ten of clubs at trick two. Drawing trumps (through East) will work fine after the clubs are set up. However, if North holds Her Majesty, things are more difficult. North holding the queen-third of clubs is inconvenient because it seems to require too many entries to the dummy. After ruffing at trick two and crossing to the king of clubs, if you lead trumps, you won’t be able to take a finesse in clubs through North – there is no convenient way back to the dummy. You could try crossing to the king of clubs and leading the club ten. If you run it and it wins, you are back in the money by leading trumps. Your clubs are good and the trump substitute play works here as well.

However, if North does have a doubleton queen of clubs, you will be in your hand without having drawn any trumps and in the wrong hand to do so. South might have the doubleton spade ace instead of North, which would allow you to succeed by drawing trumps the other way, but this can’t be the most likely layout.

At the table, declarer was not content with guessing whether the queen of clubs was doubleton or third and found a different line: after he ruffed the second heart, he played a club to the king, a spade to the queen, the ace of clubs and then another club, ruffing it in the dummy (South discarding a heart). After playing a diamond to his king, declarer was left with:

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Declarer could no longer play trumps – North would win and tap out the last trump in the East hand. Then, the hearts would be good after dummy over-ruffed South on the run of the clubs. Instead, declarer started the trump substitution by running clubs through South, being careful to discard the same suit from dummy as South discarded, to prevent an eventual promotion of the jack of spades. Declarer lost one spade, one heart and one diamond.

Could the defence have prevailed? Yes. The defence had two chances. East could have risen with the ace of spades and continued the force; that would have made life too difficult for declarer, but was not an obvious play. The real chance was missed at trick six, when declarer ruffed his third club; South discarded a heart, but had he thrown a diamond instead, he would have been ahead in the trump promotion race. Eventually, he’d have made a trick with the jack of spades (after following to the king of diamonds with his second and discarding a third diamond on the fourth round of clubs as North ruffed with his ace of spades). The ace of diamonds and another diamond from North would then have allowed South to make his jack of spades.

Declarer’s line avoided taking a club finesse, so that as well as retaining the chance of the club queen doubleton in either hand, he had the very real chance of coming home after the club queen turned out to be protected. Had South held the queen-third of clubs, he would have succeeded and, with North holding the queen-third, he needed a not-so-obvious defensive error. Note that, after South’s heart discard, North could no longer defeat four spades. Assuming South discards his last heart, dummy lets go the king of hearts and North ruffs with the ace of spades. Now, no matter which red ace North plays, South plays his six of diamonds and gets home by surrounding South’s trumps.

Nabil Edgtton

Nabil Edgtton

Well done to Nabil Edgtton (who gently guided this deal home for 12 IMPs to Australia in the World Juniors last year). Nabil used a bit of imagination to find the trumps lying well, a bit of intuition to decide to ruff out the clubs, then a touch of technique at the end to execute the unusual trump substitution play with both opponents still holding trumps.

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