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COUNTING WINNERS AND QUICK LOSERS IN A TRUMP CONTRACT

South Deals
N-S Vul
A 10 8 7 3 2
Q 8 7
8 6 4 3
N
WE
S
A Q J 8 7 4
K Q 9 6
10
Q 5
WestNorthEastSouth
   Pass
2 Dbl4 All pass
 
4  by West
Lead:  A

This deal is based on Board 21 of the June 23, 2014 game at South Bend Bridge Club.

Second seat is the one position where you don't want to cheat or stretch too much when opening a preempt, since partner often has the best hand at the table. But at "green vulnerability" (non-vulnerable vs. vulnerable opponents) and possibly making it difficult for the opponents to find a spade contract, West decides the positives outweigh the negatives and opens 2 , despite the suit quality which would usually be better for a second seat 2  opening bid.

THE DECLARER PLAY

North leads the  A and switches to the  J, very unlikely to be from  J54, so trumps are nearly assured to be split 2-1. How do you score ten tricks?

Let's pretend you win the trump switch and draw the last trump. How many quick losers, losers, and tricks do you have?

1. You have three quick losers, one in diamonds and two in clubs.

2. You have three diamond losers and four club losers, but you can ruff twice in dummy and one loser can be discarded on the  A. That still leaves you with FOUR losers (one too many).

3. You have the  A, six trump tricks in hand, and two ruffs in dummy for a total of nine tricks. You can take a ruffing finesse in spades and if South holds the  K and covers, dummy's  J is your tenth trick. If the ruffing finesse loses, the defense can cash two extra tricks to set you before you can use dummy's  J.

Considering North's takeout double, it's clearly less than 50% chance that the ruffing finesse will work. But also due to North's takeout double, the chances are much better than the typical 62% chance of finding a 4-3 spade split.

If dummy's spade suit was  A87432 instead of  AQJ874, you would consider trying to ruff out dummy's spade suit for extra spade tricks and that is exactly what you should do on this hand, being careful to conserve your entries and ruff spades in your hand while in dummy. The  Q and  J are a mirage!

1. Win the trump switch in dummy and ruff a low spade high, followed by a trump to dummy to draw the last trump, then  A (pitching a club) and another spade ruffed in hand.

2. If the  K has fallen from  Kxx in either hand, you have the rest of the tricks. Otherwise, ruff a diamond, ruff another spade dropping the  K, ruff the last diamond with dummy's last trump, and cash two of dummy's spades for club pitches, losing only a single club at the end for eleven total tricks.

Let's look at the entire deal:

South Deals
N-S Vul
K 9 5 3
J
A J 9 6 3 2
K 9
A 10 8 7 3 2
Q 8 7
8 6 4 3
N
WE
S
A Q J 8 7 4
K Q 9 6
10
Q 5
10 6 2
5 4
K 5 4
A J 10 7 2
WestNorthEastSouth
   Pass
2 Dbl4 All pass
 
4  by West
Lead:  A

Out of twelve pairs who played this deal, only three pairs bid game and made at least ten tricks. If you were in the heart game making eleven tricks, you would have scored 10 1/2 out of 11 matchpoints.

Let's finish with a short discussion on the auction and defense.

THE AUCTION

Note East's excellent 4  bid. The Law of Total Tricks says he should bid 4 , especially at this vulnerability, and if 5  is a good contract for the opponents, he'd like to make it difficult for them to find it.

South suspects his side might be able to make something if partner has a little extra, but doesn't have enough playing strength to act over 4 . North is tempted to double 4  (for takeout) and correct South's 5  bid to 5 , but especially at this vulnerability, doesn't have a good enough hand to do that. (If North bid that strongly, South should give serious consideration to raising 5  to 6  which will lead to a zero if East doubles.)

THE DEFENSE

North can switch to clubs and hold declarer to ten tricks instead of switching to a trump. What information does North have to know cashing out two club tricks is necessary after leading the  A on opening lead?

1. South should have played his lowest diamond as a suit preference signal for clubs. Also, since South knows any (regular) spade finesse declarer needs will work, it appears to South a quick cash out of three minor suit tricks is all that is available to the defense.

2. If declarer has two or three spades, he will take successful spade finesses and should score the rest of the tricks as soon as he gains the lead.

3. If declarer is void in spades, as we have already seen, declarer should score eleven tricks. Similarly for declarer holding a singleton spade with the most likely shapes of 1-6-3-3 or 1-6-4-2 which will also result in eleven tricks without needing a finesse.

4. Since South is more likely to hold the  A than declarer on the auction, North's first instinct should be to switch to the  K at trick 2 and only if he can find good reason not to make that switch should he lead something else.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

1. As declarer, look to use dummy's long suit for extra tricks when you have enough dummy entries to use them. This is especially true when you can't ruff enough cards in dummy or (as on the given deal), the defense can lead trump to prevent enough ruffs in dummy.

Also, it is often more important to count winners (as we often are taught for notrump contracts) in a trump contract than to count losers, although it is always important to know how many QUICK losers the defense can cash if they gain the lead.

2. As a defender, anticipate declarer's likely plan of play and if you need to take a risk switching to another suit to cash out, even if declarer has the important card in that suit (the  A on the given deal), it may make no difference in how many tricks declarer scores, so it is worth the risk.

Bud Hinckley
budh9534@gmail.com

     
 
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