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Improve Your Play with Larry Matheny


It is one of the basics of bridge that after the auction one pair defends while the other declares. However, many contracts are won or lost simply because the players did not listen to or remember the auction. See how you would have done with these hands.matheny M 1

BIDDING: East’s rebid of 2NT showed 18-19 high card points. With his good two-suited hand, West was interested in slam. East cooperated by first showing spade support and then cue bidding the diamond ace. South doubled 4 hoping to get a diamond lead.

PLAY: The only thing North remembered from the bidding was his partner’s double so he cooperated by leading a diamond against the 6 contract. Declarer won the diamond lead, lost a trump trick, and quickly claimed twelve tricks. If North had only LISTENED TO THE BIDDING, he would have realized that declarer bid clubs twice to show at least five, dummy jumped to 2NT indicating a balanced hand with at least two clubs, so it was simple math to realize South could hold no more than one club. Holding the trump ace, it would be a simple matter for North to lead a club, win the spade at trick two, and give his partner a club ruff to defeat the contract.

matheny M 2BIDDING: The 4 contract was reached with little problem. East’s 3 bid was weak and the pair would have no doubt sacrificed at 4 if they had not been at unfavorable vulnerability. Assuming North-South lead spades twice, a 4 contract would be held to eight or nine tricks.
PLAY: Defending 4, West erred by leading her singleton diamond. When holding length in declarer’s trump suit, it is usually best to lead your long suit hoping to force declarer to shorten his trumps. East hesitated a moment before following with a low diamond so it was clear to declarer that the lead was from a short suit. REMEMBERING THE BIDDING, it seemed West held six spades and if she was short in diamonds, she probably had length in trumps. Accordingly, South played the heart king at trick two and discovered the 4-0 split. Without the opening lead, the normal play would be to the heart ace and back toward the South hand. Declarer now was able to lose only one trump trick and ended up making five for the top result. Most declarers only made four or lost their way ending down one after losing one spade, two hearts, and one club.

matheny M 3BIDDING: South could have just bid 2 but the jump to 3 in the pass out position shows an intermediate hand with a good suit. North liked the location of her spade king and continued on to game.

PLAY: West led the king of clubs and declarer saw that he had four possible losers: one spade, two diamonds, and one club. From the BIDDING, it seemed likely that West held most of the high cards but there was room for the spade jack or diamond queen in the East hand. Since it was important to never let East in to lead a diamond through, declarer ducked the first trick. West continued with a club and South drew trumps in two rounds while ruffing his last club. South then led a low spade that West had to duck. Winning with the king, he continued with a small spade toward his hand. East had to play the jack, which solved declarer’s problem. However, if East has followed with a small spade, declarer still had West in trouble. If West led a spade or a diamond, declarer would have ten tricks. If instead he led a club, it would allow declarer to ruff in dummy as he discarded a losing diamond. It came down to placing the high cards from the bidding.


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