Bridge Hand Of The Week

A minor problem

Apr 24, 2017
Dlr: East Vul: None
18 12
Q J 6 5 3 3 2 A K J A K 9

A K 10 4 2 A 8 7 3 J 8 4 3
West 4All Pass
North 5
East2Pass
South26

Your partners jump to 5 asked you to bid 6 if you had a heart control. You could have bid 6 to show first-round control and hint at a grand slam, but your minimum opener dissuades you from that course. West leads the 10 against your small slam. What is your plan for taking 12 tricks?

Solution

Declarer counted 10 top tricks with an 11th available from a heart ruff. The extra trick could come from the club suit or from a winning diamond finesse. Clearly, the club suit should be tested first, with the diamond finesse as a fallback.

After drawing trumps with the ace and queen (East following twice), declarer placed East with eight cards in the majors. That persuaded declarer to look for an alternative to playing the A, K and a third club. That approach would lose when West started with Q-10 to four or five. Also, when West did start with four or five clubs, it became less likely that the secondary chance of a successful finesse in diamonds would succeed.

After some thought, declarer developed a plan that would always bring a 12th trick as long as East started with six hearts. First, he cashed the A, then ruffed dummys remaining heart. Next he led a low club towards dummys K-9. When West followed with a low club, declarer called for dummys 9 and, when that held, he had 12 tricks.

West suggested that this was a lucky play. Declarer retorted, You should see that this plan succeeds against any club layout. If East takes the 9 with the 10 and the suit is 3-3, then dummys J can be discarded on the 13th club. If you began with five or six clubs, this approach will always produce an extra trick in the suit.

It also works when East takes the 9 with the queen or a doubleton 10: in the latter case, East will be endplayed and forced to concede an extra trick by leading a diamond into dummys tenace or conceding a ruff and discard. Finally, if East started with four clubs, then he could have at most one diamond; so, after cashing the A, finessing the J would produce a guaranteed 12th trick. The full deal:

18 2 8 12
Q J 6 5 3 3 2 A K J A K 9
8 10 9 5 4 9 6 5 4 Q 10 6 5
9 7 K Q J 8 7 6 Q 10 2 7 2

A K 10 4 2 A 8 7 3 J 8 4 3