Remembering the Auction
One of the more common mistakes of newer players is to forget the auction during the play or defense of the hand, failing to take into consideration the direct and indirect inferences of the bidding. Here are some examples where Declarer uses that information to his advantage.
Related Play Problems Play Problem 28
Against 4♠, South will probably lead the ♣Q (though we wonder if she shouldn’t be more aggressive and lead the ♦K). Now Declarer has the chance to make a whopping 12 tricks!
Win the opening Club lead
Draw trumps in two rounds
Lead a Heart to Dummy’s King
Lose a Heart
Yes, that was a good Heart guess, guided by South’s two-level overcall and North’s preempt.
Deep Finesse tells us that 11 tricks can be made in Spades, but that requires two inspired guesses by Declarer … he must play a Spade to the King … and he must play South for the singleton ♣A. We don’t see many Declarers pulling that off, though it’s not inconceivable that some might. Let’s say that South leads the ♦Q. That tells Declarer that South has three HCP’s in Diamonds. The bidding tells Declarer that South probably started with 10 or 11 HCP’s and that North probably started with 8 or 9. So, it seems unlikely that North has the ♠A, that would give her no more than two HCP’s in Clubs. If Declarer follows that logic, she might return to hand with a Diamond ruff, and lead a Spade to Dummy’s King. Good guess! Now another Spade is played, to South’s Ace. South can get out with a Heart, but Declarer cashes the Hearts (pitching a Club), crosses to Dummy with a trump, and leads a Club. Will Declarer guess this one also? Probably! South really needs that ♣A for her opening bid, and the best hope is that it is singleton. Making 11 tricks, which should be enough for a great E-W board (we don’t see a lot of E-W pairs bidding the game).
In order to make 3♦, Declarer must lose just one trick in each of the minor suits. Normal play in each suit is to take the double hook against the KJ, but Declarer has only two entries to Dummy, so here’s how the play might go:
Q♥ won by Dummy’s Ace
9♦ run around to South’s Jack (wrong guess!)
J♥ won by Dummy’s King
Q♦ is finessed and the A♦ cashed
Thanks to the wrong guess in the trump suit, Declarer must play the Clubs from his own hand for just one loser. Here are some deductions that Declarer might make:
- Hearts are surely 5-3 from the bidding
- How about Spades? Best guess is 5 with North and 3 with South. If North had 6 she might have bid 2♠, and if South were 4-5 in the majors she might have doubled initially.
- That suggests (it’s far from a certainty) that South started with 3=5=2=3 distribution and North with 5=3=3=2.
How about the HCP’s? South presumably did not start with both the A♠ and K♠, surely she would have lead one. Therefore she needs the K♣ to give her the values for a vulnerable overcall. If this imprecise and tenuous logic is worth anything then Declarer should attack the Clubs by laying down the Ace and following with the Queen, hoping to squash North’s doubleton Jack. Nicely done (but only if East also remembers to unblock the Ten on the second round of Clubs!).
East’s 3♦ was a valiant attempt to get in the way of the N-S auction but it slowed them down not one bit as they zoomed into the obvious 4♠ contract.
West leads the Q♦ and it’s apparent when Dummy goes down that there are 12 tricks provided that the two major suit Queens can be captured. When playing Spades, Declarer plays Dummy’s Ace on the first round of the suit, reasoning that if the suit is 3-0 then the void will most likely be with the 2♦ bidder. As it happens, the trumps are 2-1 and that hurdle is easily overcome. Using the same logic the Q♥ is more likely to be in the hand with the short Diamonds, so Dummy’s Ace is played on the first round of Hearts, followed by a Heart finesse. No problem, 12 tricks for Declarer.
Against 4♠, South leads the J♣, won in Dummy, and trumps are drawn. At this point South is marked with the K♥, so there is no point in taking the Heart finesse. Better to cash the A♥ and lead a low Heart towards the Jack, catering for the likely possibility that South has the singleton or doubleton King. When that turns out to be the case, one of Declarer’s Diamonds goes on the Hearts and 11 tricks are made.
In 4♠ doubled, as Declarer (East) how do you play the Spade suit? If the suit is 2-2 it doesn’t matter, there will be one loser regardless. And if the suit is 3-1? Then there will be two losers except in these cases:
South has singleton King (♠A is cashed, then a Club towards the Jack)
South has singleton Queen (same line of play)
North has singleton Ten (Declarer must lead the Spade Jack from his hand)
The superficial conclusion is “Two chances are better than one” leading Declarer to lay down the ♠A. But the bidding suggests that the third case is more likely, so we would play South for KQ6. This is the winner, bringing in the trump suit for one loser and scoring a surprising 11 tricks!
You could no doubt construct a thousand different auctions for this deal, and we have constructed one which gets N-S to the woeful, but not hopeless, contract of 5♣. West leads a low Spade. Declarer will ponder upon what West has done so far:
- Not good enough to raise to 2♠
- But chose to double South’s cue-bid of 3♠
- And then led a low Spade.
No doubt, Sherlock, you have deduced that West has a Spade honor (presumably the King or Queen), and if he also had the ♦K would he not have raised to 2♠ directly? Sure he would, so it’s a fair assumption that the ♦K is offside! That being so, we suggest this line of play:
Ruff the Spade lead in Dummy
Low Diamond to East’s King
Ruff the Spade return
Play on trumps
The defense will score the Ace of trumps, of course, but that’s all they get! Good card-reading by Declarer, deducing that the ♦K was with East, and that the finesse was futile.
West and East are both minimum for their No Trump bids so it’s no surprise that 3NT is a perilous place. North leads the ♥J to South’s Ace, then a Heart back, won by Declarer’s King. Declarer cashes the ♠A, and runs the ♠J. Now a Diamond is led to Dummy’s Jack, and when the ♠Q comes fluttering down on the 3rd round Declarer is home. With one Spade left to cash, here is the end-position:
♠ ♠ 9
♥ Q8 ♥
♦ KQ8 ♦ 42
♣ K ♣ Q85
Now Declarer has a choice to make. Thanks to the lucky Spade situation he has 9 certain tricks just by pitching a Diamond on the last Spade, and then leading a Diamond. But at matchpoints greed is good and Declarer might see a chance for 10 tricks if he throws the ♣K on the last Spade. He’ll reason that North’s bidding, and South’s lack of bidding, strongly suggest that North has both minor suit Aces, making the ♣K pitch quite safe. Now it is North’s chance to shine. Watch should she pitch on the last Spade? Not the ♣J, that will make it obvious that she is down to three Hearts and two Aces, allowing Declarer to play a Diamond from Dummy and low from hand! Making 10 tricks! But North can create doubt by pitching a Heart on the last Spade. Now Declarer will be taking a big risk by playing low on that Diamond … if North is down to ♥ T9, ♦A9, ♣A then Declarer has just gone down in a cold contract! So Declarer is likely to play it dafe and play a Diamond to the King for 9 tricks.
If South religiously gives count signals then she will give the game away by playing high-low in Diamonds. This won’t help her Partner, but if Declarer trusts the signal then he will guess the Diamonds correctly.
A routine auction comes to rest in 2♠ and South finds herself on lead with no appetizing choice. Whatever she leads will make Declarer’s life easier, and it should be possible to come to 9 tricks, losing two Spades, a Heart and a Diamond. One small point in the play: Declarer will remember that it was South who opened the bidding and will be sure to lead the first round of trumps from his hand, to protect against the (actual) case of a singleton ♠A in the South hand.
Against 4♠, North leads a Club, and Declarer ruffs the second Club high. An ambitious Declarer will try to make 12 tricks. Where are they coming from? The only realistic possibility is from 4 Spades in Dummy, 3 ruffs in Declarer’s hand (a Dummy reversal!), the ♥A and 4 Diamonds. What’s the best chance for 4 Diamonds? Yes, play North for the Jack! The long Clubs are in the South hand and the odds are that North has the longer Diamonds and is more likely to hold the ♦J. That might be enough to steer Declarer into this exotic line of play:
Club lead is won by South’s Jack
Club continuation is ruffed high by Declarer (North will be pitching Hearts)
Spade to Declarer’s Eight
Cash the ♦A (in case South has singleton Jack)
Club ruffed high
Finesse the Diamond Ten!
Club ruffed high
Diamond to the Queen
Cross to Dummy with a Spade
Cash the last Diamond, pitching a Heart
Now all that remains is to cross to the ♥A and cash the last two trumps. +690! Top board!
Can 4♠ make? The answer is “Yes!”, though the line of play that you are about to see may seem a little far-fetched. Or maybe not. Suppose that North has used Michaels and then doubled 3♠ (as above), showing a good hand. This might persuade Declarer (West) that the best chance of success is to play North to hold virtually all the missing HCP and to be precisely 1=5=2=5. If so, Declarer can prevail even against a forcing defense. Check this out:
♥A is cashed
Heart continuation is ruffed
♠A is cashed
Diamond to the Ace
Low Diamond to North’s King
Another Heart ruff
♦Q is cashed
Club to North’s Ace
Now Declarer can score the ♣K and cross-ruff the rest of the hand. Nicely played.
Most tables will no doubt play this one in a Heart part-score, which brings in 9 easy tricks.
If E-W somehow steal it in 3♣ they can also make 9 tricks, but only by guessing the Diamonds correctly. There’s a nice symmetry here in the trump suit, as once again Declarer must decide which defender is more likely to have the singleton Ace (the answer is South), and once again it turns out not to matter. However, crossing to the K♦ in order to lead a Club would remove some Diamond options, here’s a better line of play:
Win the opening Heart lead
Lose a Spade, won by North’s Queen
The K♥ is cashed
Club to South’s Ace
Club won in Dummy
Spade won by South
Spade ruffed by Declarer
Cross to Dummy with a Club (yes, Declarer was unblocking earlier!)
Ruff the last Spade
Now the moment of truth has arrived, it’s time for the Diamond guess! Declarer has gone out of his way to collect clues, and can be reasonably sure that the opponents started life as follows:
Either North ♠ AQx, ♥ Kxxx, ♦ Qxxx, ♣ xx
South ♠ KJxx, ♥ Qxxxx, ♦ xx, ♣ AJ
Or North ♠ AQx, ♥ Kxxx, ♦ xxxx, ♣ xx
South ♠ KJxx, ♥ Qxxxx, ♦ Qx, ♣ AJ
Which layout is more consistent with the bidding? Let’s look at South first. Yes, she would no doubt have bid the same with either of those two hands, even without the Q♦ she would have an opening bid. How about North? Surely if North had 11 points opposite an opening bid she would not be selling out to 3♣. So, we would play South for the Q♦, even though she is the one with fewer Diamonds.
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