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COMPARE YOUR DEFENSE AGAINST AN EXPERT

A J 10 7 4
A 10 8 7 6
8 6
J
N
WE
S
Q 9 5 3
K 5 3
A Q 5 2
8 5
WestNorthEastSouth
1♣
Pass1♠Pass2♣
Pass31Pass3NT
All pass
  1. invitational with 5-5 in the majors
3NT by South
Lead: 3

Playing in a Flight A knockout defending against a 3NT contract, your partner leads the 3 to your A. You return the 2 to declarer's J and partner's K, and the 9 is returned to your Q, declarer playing low. Declarer must have the 10 as the high diamond because partner would not return the 9 from a remaining 109 doubleton. Also, partner's opening lead might have been the 10 if holding K1093.

What do we know about declarer's hand? What hands can declarer hold which (1) will make 3NT unbeatable and (2) will allow 3NT to be beaten? Does that help you decide what to lead to trick 4 to best stop declarer from scoring nine tricks in his 3NT contract?

Declarer started with J10xx and likely has six or more clubs. Of the ♣AKQ, the Q, and the ♠K, he should be missing no more than one of those cards. Most likely, declarer's clubs are headed by the ♣AKQ and if he has more than six clubs, he will easily score the last ten tricks.

What about ♣AKQ10xx? Then even on a 4-2 split, declarer has nine tricks by overtaking dummy's ♣J. So we need to play declarer's clubs to be no better than ♣AKQ9xx and partner for ♣10xxx so declarer can't overtake dummy's ♣J and score nine tricks.

But if declarer decldes to cash the ♣J and succeeds in later returning to his hand to run the clubs, he will make 3NT. So we need to play declarer for J10xx ♣AKQ9xx and three unknown major suit cards, which should include the Q or the ♠K, possibly both.

Since declarer will need to unblock the ♣J and then get back to his hand to run the club suit, entries to declarer's hand will be vital.

Let's look at some hands declarer could possibly hold, and see what we can do to stop 3NT from making.

1. ♠Kx x J10xx ♣AKQ9xx
2. ♠x Qx J10xx ♣AKQ9xx
3. ♠K Qx J10xx ♣AKQ9xx
4. ♠K xx J10xx ♣AKQ9xx

On Hand 1, declarer will always make 3NT. Even if we lead a spade, he can win dummy's ♠A, unblock the ♣J, and return to the ♠K to run the club suit.

On Hand 2, declarer could unblock the ♣J and try to get to his hand by leading a low heart toward his Qx hoping you hold the K, and this time luck is with him. If you don't have a fifth defensive trick set up when you take your K, declarer will make 3NT on this line of play.

On Hand 3, declarer can make 3NT even if you lead a spade if he decides to unblock the ♣J before leading a heart toward his Qx.

On Hand 4, a spade shift removes the ♠K entry before the ♣J can be unblocked, making it impossible to run the clubs.

Therefore, you must lead a low spade at trick 4, since either

(1) partner holds the ♠K and you need to set up your spade trick before declarer possibly unblocks the ♣J and leads a heart toward his Qx, or

(2) declarer has a singleton ♠K and you must remove that entry before the ♣J is unblocked.

The full deal could look like either of these:

South Deals
None Vul
A J 10 7 4
A 10 8 7 6
8 6
J
8 6 2
Q J 9
K 9 3
10 7 3 2
N
WE
S
Q 9 5 3
K 5 3
A Q 5 2
8 5
K
4 2
J 10 7 4
A K Q 9 6 4
3NT by South
Lead: 3

South Deals
None Vul
A J 10 7 4
A 10 8 7 6
8 6
J
K 8 2
J 9 4
K 9 3
10 7 3 2
N
WE
S
Q 9 5 3
K 5 3
A Q 5 2
8 5
6
Q 2
J 10 7 4
A K Q 9 6 4
3NT by South
Lead: 3

At the table, an expert with one of the highest masterpoint totals in the ACBL led a passive diamond back instead of a spade, giving declarer a chance to make his contract. Did you defend better by switching to a low spade at trick 4?

Bud Hinckley
budh9534@gmail.com

     
 
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