Sunday, 2 June 2013

Good try, bad result

Here's a hand from the Matchpoint Pairs at St. Andrews on a Wednesday night. Me and Anna were playing Reverse Benji, and having an average evening, when along came this opportunity to shine.

North is dealer, and no one is vulnerable. Here's our auction.

♠ T 6
♥ J T 6 5
♦ T 7
♣ A K 8 6 3
♠ A K Q J 9 4 2
♥ A Q 7
♦ 2
♣ Q J

1: 23+ or any game forcing
2: Weak or waiting
3: Single suited with Spades
4: Cue bids agreeing Spades
5: RKCB 1430
6: 0 or 3 keycards
7: Do you have ♠Q?
8: Yes, but no outside Kings

Anna had the mighty South hand. You could argue for opening 1♠, 4♠ (she was fourth in hand), 2♣, or a Benji 2♦. With four losers and eight tricks Anna went for 2♣. I think this is right, as you can make game opposite almost nothing in partner's hand. I was sitting North, and have a decent hand opposite a 2♣ opener. I was tempted to reply 3♣, showing my good suit, but me and Anna play that a positive reply needs a good suit and a bit more overall strength. So I just bid 2♦, which allowed Anna to show her single suited hand with a jump to 3♠. There's just a chance we still belong in Hearts, but the advantage of bidding 3♠ is that it clearly sets trumps. I cuebid 4♣, Anna cuebid her Diamond control with 4♦, and now I had a dilemma.

If I bid 4♠, as I ought to do, denying a Heart control, I'm worried that Anna might then pass, not realising how good my Clubs are. But if I bid on past 4♠, maybe we'll be in a slam missing ♥AK. I decide to gamble on the high road, guessing that for her 2♣ opening Anna has something in Hearts, and bid 4NT. Anna shows 3 keycards. These are presumably ♠AK and one other Ace. If Anna's Spades are ♠AKxxxxx I don't want to end up in a 7-2 fit missing the Queen, so I ask for the Queen and we end in 6♠.

As you can see, it's an excellent contract. There are seven top Spades, ♥A, and four Club tricks, though they are blocked. My ♠T could provide a possible entry though, and there's also the Heart finesse to fall back on. West leads the ♦A, and the ♦K, ruffed. What do you do now?

Scroll down for the full deal.

No vul
W deal
♠ T 6
♥ J T 6 5
♦ T 7
♣ A K 8 6 3
♠ 7
♥ K 9 3 2
♦ A K 6 4
♣ T 9 7 2
♠ 8 5 3
♥ 8 4
♦ Q J 9 8 5 3
♣ 5 4
♠ A K Q J 9 4 2
♥ A Q 7
♦ 2
♣ Q J

Unfortunately, everything is wrong. The Clubs are not 3-3, the Spades are not 2-2, and the Heart finesse is offside.

Here's what happened at the table. Anna cashed one round of trumps, unblocked the ♣QJ, then played a Spade over to the ♠T. If trumps were 2-2 she'd be home now, as all of dummy's Clubs would be good. But when West showed out on the second trump she had a problem. She was in dummy, but couldn't cash the Clubs as there was still a trump outstanding. She played for the defender with the long trumps (East) having four Clubs, and lead the ♣A. This is risky, as if it doesn't work East can ruff one of the Clubs leaving you trapped in hand. East failed to ruff the ♣A, but certainly would have ruffed the ♣K, so Anna switched tacks and tried the Heart finesse. This lost, leading to one down.

Anna's line basically works if trumps are 2-2 or the Heart finesse works, making it about 75%.

The alternative line is to draw trumps, then play on Clubs. This makes if Clubs are 3-3 (overtaking in dummy), or the Heart finesse works. This sounds like it's a bit worse, but actually, if you play all seven rounds of trumps, you get an extra chance. After the first Diamond trick is lost and seven Spades follow, there are only five cards left. Which five cards can West keep? He either has to throw away a Club, which is fatal, or go down to bare ♥K, which is fatal if declarer spots what's going on. This squeeze works any time the defender with the ♥K also has the long Clubs (be it four, five, or even all six Clubs). West's best chance is to keep his Clubs and go down to just ♥K, after which declarer may still finesse Hearts as they can't know it's now a singleton King. But in reality West may well throw away a Club. This means that running all the trumps will often work better, and indeed on this deal it's the only way to make the slam.

All the other tables played in 4♠ or 5♠, usually making 11 tricks and once 12. 6♠-1 was a bottom. See the travellers for Board 8 here (but ignore the associated deal, which is displayed wrong on the website).

In the end we finished the night on just above 50%, which because of a few very high scoring pairs was enough for 5th place.

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