When it rains, it pours

The problem with writing a blog, is finding the hands. Sometimes you can play for weeks without running across an interesting hand, and then there are days when the problems don’t seem to stop. The latter happened to me earlier this week. I was at the local club to drop something off and have a coffee, with no plans to play as I had another appointment later that evening. However, a player ran late due to the bad weather, I still had some time to spare and I sat in for 4 boards. All 4 hands had a problem or two.

(1) Partner leads the6, top from 2 small, 3rd from 3 or 4 small, and it is your turn. Butler scoring, so worry about defeating the contract, not about overticks. 3basically asked for a stopper, but it is also the only forcing bid that EW had available at that point.

(2) 2showed 5and 4 in a minor, about 6 to 10. West is kind enough to lead theQ. east playing the4, discouraging or an odd number. You win the trick. Now what?

(3) 2multi, 2natural. Your turn to bid something.

(4)K led, you encourage with the5 and this holds the trick, declarer contributing the4.Q and your turn?

While you are thinking about this. Last week I said that the finals of the Meesterklasse will be played next week. Here is some information if you want to follow the action:

On Saturday, play will be broadcasted on BBO only, playing times for the 3 16-board sets are (approximately) 10:30-12:45, 13:15-15:30 and 15:45-18:00, all CET.

On Sunday, you have the option of watching BBO, from 10:00-12:50 and 13:20-17:10, or watch the 2 20-board sets in Utrecht with live commentary by Wubbo de Boer (Bermuda Bowl winner 1993) and former World Junior Champion Joris van Lankveld. The prize giving ceremony will be around 16:30, with the federation offering drinks to all kibitzers.

Finally, for those watching online, here is a link to a page with the convention cards of all 5 pairs.

Right, back to the problems. Declarer must have theQ for his bidding to make sense. As he bid 3, he must have 5 hearts and have doubts about the strain, otherwise he’d bid 3NT right way. That gives partner a maximum of about 3 or 4 points, that can be either theA,K orA. With a lower honnor, or less, you won’t defeat the contract anyway.

Let’s look at all 3 cases:A with partner. Now it is good to continue clubs, declarer likely has a spade, 5 hearts and a club and then he is out of steam.K with partner: now there is nothing you can do, declarer has 3 aces and 5 more diamonds. Your best hope is to return a diamond and hope he misguesses setting up a 9th trick. Finally,A with partner. Now the2 will set up 3 tricks in that suit for down 1.

Is there any argument to play partner for theA orA? Remember the auction. Declarer knows he only has a single club stopper, so he must have some source of tricks. That makes it a bit more likely that declarer has theA.

The spade return was missed at the 3 tables defending a game (2x 3NT and 1x 4), the other tables made partials.

The second hand. No doubt west expected a better heart stopper with south as a heart lead would have sunk the contract right away. West no doubt tried to find her partner’s suit and picked the wrong one.

Now it is a matter of counting tricks: after the lead you can set up 4 diamonds, 2 hearts, a club and a spade. If east has theA or west theKQ (or east a singletonK, Q or 9), that black suit will provide your 9th trick.

It does require that you make the somewhat counter-intuitive play of cashing theA in trick 2, setting up a trick for west. But, even with 5 diamonds with west, there is little harm in this as the109 provide 2 more stops.

So,AK,J, west errs by covering with theQ but the contract has already been made,10 sets up the 4th diamond trick.

Board 3. In practice, west bid a natural 3but any bid will take EW too high. East tried 3_ and everybody was happy with that. South led the8 for the10 andQ. Now a club back to theQ and theJ. Declarer had to ruff (ducking won’t help either) and had already lost control of the hand. She tried a diamond to the ace and theJ to theQ. Another heart and now the roof came down. It ended up with down 4.

Could this disaster have been avoided? Yes, east should realize that she will get another turn after 2and not overcall on marginal hands.

And finally. Partner has seen your5, so she knows you have theJ. Obviously, she is worried about you holdingJx and not being able to return the suit to set it up. Thus, she must have at leastKQ10x. Simply follow partner’s instruction and drop theJ. If partner hadKQx(…) and was worried about setting up the10, she should have led a small club at trick 2. I’m not showing the full hand, as it didn’t matter what you did on this hand, but those things do matter in the long run.

If you got all the problems right, you’ll win about 10 imp’s on each board. Not a bad start for the evening.

Henk Uijterwaal 2019