Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
The Puerto Vallarta Regional Bridge Tournament in November produced more than its share of interesting, not to mention difficult, hands that often left declarers scratching their heads in an attempt to find the best line of play.
Many pairs who were in game contracts in the illustrated hand went down when the post mortem revealed an unusual but logical play would have brought the contract home.
At one table South dealt and opened his 18 high card point hand 1 spade. North held only 5 HCP but was reluctant to pass and decided his good collection of 10s and 9s justified the response of 1 no trump. South in turn had to decide whether to make a simple change of suit at the 2 level or to make a game-forcing jump shift. When he went with the latter he soon found himself in a very tenuous 23-high card point game.
West led the diamond 4 which was covered by the queen and king and won by South with the ace. Declarer took time out to consider how best to play the hand. All his bridge instincts said that he needed to start drawing trumps by leading from the dummy towards the king in his hand but this dummy was distinctly short of entries. The only possible way there was if the opponents’ spades were divided 3-3.
So, without further ado, South played the ace and king of spades and ruffed the third round only to have East over ruff with his singleton queen of hearts. With two more trump losers and an inescapable diamond loser the contract was quickly down one.
In discussing the hand later it soon became clear that this was a contract that required declarer to think outside the box. The line of play undertaken had necessitated that the opponents’ hearts be divided 3-3 which only occurs a little more than one third of the time. After mulling it over for some time North, who hadn’t had to play the hand, came up with the solution: play the heart king from the South hand at trick 2!
Yes, that is a counter-intuitive gambit but as you can see very successful. Although four cards held by the opponents will divide 2-2 about 40 percent of the time, they will be 3-1 50% and 4-0 the other 10%. There is nothing you can do to be successful if either opponent holds all four trumps in this hand and if they are 2-2 you will likely succeed no matter how you tackle hearts.
But when they are 3-1 you must be careful how you draw trumps. Three of East-West’s hearts are honours and therefore three out of four times an honour will be singleton. When that singleton is the queen or jack, the play of the king from South will be successful. Admittedly the queen or the jack will only fall 50% of the time but that is twice as often as the ace, so it makes the play of the king the best chance to bring home the contract. Those who worked it out to make this play were well-rewarded for their analysis.
Easier when you know how!