X-Files 66

The declarer play problem I set earlier was a fairly simple ‘double dummy’ play problem but I made it sound more difficult than it was to make the reader think. Not one of the declarers (at our club) in 4H made twelve tricks. I believe that this hand should have pretty well played itself ‘at the table’.

Board 3 Dealer S EW Vul


he bidding at the table would have gone something like 1S from South, 2C from West, 4H from East, though some EW pairs might have found their way to 6H. But let’s just play this in 4H, South would no doubt have led the ace of spades. Declarer ruffs and lays down the ace of hearts followed by the queen. North wins and exits with a safe card, probably a spade. Declarer ruffs this and draws the last trump. Declarer can see that if he loses a club, as seems inevitable, he will make eleven tricks via seven trumps and four clubs, not needing any diamond tricks at all! But that is still two losers, a trump and a club. If declarer counts the top tricks, he has seven hearts and two clubs. How many other tricks can there be? South has opened the bidding and did not have the king of hearts. Even though taking the diamond finesse would risk losing a third trick, declarer should be almost certain that the diamond finesse will work, which will come to eleven tricks including two clubs without the club loser needed to set up any extra club tricks. So why not take\ the obvious eleven tricks via the diamond finesse? And, as so often can happen, when there are eleven tricks, there is a possibility of a twelfth if there are enough potential ‘threat’ cards. Whatever the case, declarer takes the diamond finesse, then cashes the ace and returns to hand by either ruffing a spade or diamond, or the king of clubs. Any card will do as long as declarer keeps the ace and another club in dummy and the queen of spades. Those will be the last three cards when the final trump is led out. South sees the queen of spades in dummy so has no option but to discard a club. Declarer now discards the queen of spades (the ‘threat card’) from dummy and takes the last two tricks with the ace and ten of clubs. As you can see, the hand plays itself, as long as declarer sets up a situation where he can take all of his trumps until there are only two cards left, one top card and one potential winning card. The bidding often gives you clues to the play. So does the contract you have landed in. In 6H, declarer really has no option but to play it this way. In 5H the safest way is to play on clubs and lose a club to set up two club tricks. But in 4H declarer has to decide whether to settle for the safe eleven tricks or look for a twelfth with the potential squeeze.

from Vil Gravis 21/6/20