Bridge Deal of the Week (February 28 2018)

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The Auction:

West North East South
Pass 1NT* Pass 3
Pass 3NT Pass 4♠
Pass Pass Pass  

* - forcing one round

In a matchpointed pair event, South becomes declarer in 4♠ after announcing a powerful hand with spades and diamonds. Partner opens the K. It doesn't appear as though you can defeat the contract, but you still need to take all the tricks that are rightfully yours. What are your thoughts?

It is standard to give attitude to partner's honor lead in suit contracts. However, when declarer is unable to produce the A, partner will know that you hold the card. Does this change anything? Is your play to this trick suit preference? Even if partner does interpret your play as an attitude signal, should you play an encouraging 7 to signal for a heart continuation, or a discouraging 3 to ask for a club switch?


If declarer has a club loser, there is nothing that he can do about it. This means that the defense should simply try to cash a second heart trick, and wait for the club trick if declarer ruffs the trick. This leads to the conclusion that the right card is the 7, asking for a heart continuation.

Wait a minute. Partner might not be able to reach the conclusion that you did, and might do some thinking of his own. Look at his problem. If declarer holds a singleton heart, continuing hearts from his side of the table would be fatal. Although partner might reason that you would not encourage with 5 hearts headed by the Ace, he might lead a club just to be safe. As the cards lie, this would obviously be fatal as declarer will play the Ace and discard his losing heart. Is there anything you can do to protect partner?

There is a neat solution to this problem. Play the A, overtaking partner's King, and return a heart. If you think about it, this play has little risk. Whenever declarer has 1 heart, this play makes no difference (if declarer is 6-1-4-2, you will make another club anyway and if declarer is 6-1-5-1, you will not score another trick in hearts or clubs). The real gain occurs when declarer has 6-2-5-0, where you will be able to protect partner from making a mistake.

This play is not risk-free. If partner has KQ doubleton in hearts, you just blew a trick (you could overtake the Q with the Ace and give partner a ruff). However, this is not a likely scenario, and you will make partner's life easy.

Partner surprisingly produces the ♠A as well to hold declarer to ten tricks. All this hard work was to break even with the field for an average score.

 A93 Deal  84
 KQ9  A743
 86  J95
 J7532  K1094

As you see, declarer did not have his 3 bid, but this was the route taken by the North-South pair to reach 4♠ when the hand came up in the open pairs in the Chicago NABC. The East player actually discouraged the heart lead, this play was punished when West duly led a club, allowing declarer to dispose his heart loser on the ♣A.

Par Contract Analysis

The par contract on this deal is 4♠ by North-South.

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