Maritha Pottenger

Three hands from Western Conference STAC August 21, 2018.

Board #28, you are Declarer in 3NT with the lead of the 5. You hold: J97 AK65 KQ86 K6. Dummy has: A63 J32 J10 A9843. After the A is gone, you will have 1 top spade; 2 top hearts; 3 top diamonds; and 2 top clubs. You only need one more trick. Your best bet is the heart suit NOT the club suit. You should be very worried about a spade shift. Finding the Q in front of the Jack is a 50% shot—much better than 3-3 clubs (and you don't have time for 4-2 clubs). If the Q is singleton, you also win, OR if hearts are 3-3, you get your nine tricks. Your combined chances are 69%. So play another diamond to unblock the suit, then play the A and a heart toward the Jack.

If they find a spade shift (when in with the A OR the Q), you should play for divided Royal Marriage (King and Queen) and hope for a favorable placement of the 10. So, if a spade comes from your left, duck it. Assuming King (or Queen) wins and a low spade is returned, try the nine. If that forces the other high honor [it does], you are home free. If a spade comes from your right, you try the 9 (hoping to force King or Queen on your left—which works. You kill that with the Ace and your Jx remains a stopper again the other high honor on your right.

Hand #23 is also interesting. You are playing 2 holding AK95 QJ10 875 862 with a Dummy of: Q862 972 AK1062 K. The opponents lead the 5 and RHO takes two top hearts and plays a third round. You breathe a sigh of relief when your winner is not ruffed. You have two lines of play for your overtrick. You can ruff two clubs in Dummy before pulling trumps. Or, you can simply play for 3-2 diamonds; pull trumps; and give up a diamond.

Eddie Kantar has noted in his writings that it is usually better to develop a long suit than to try to get several ruffs in Dummy. In this hand, transportation could get tricky. Suppose you give up a club and they play a diamond. You take a top diamond. The only way to your hand is with a high spade. If you ruff a club immediately, and then come back to your hand with another high spade, you would be forced to ruff the third round of clubs with the Q. That would promote someone's 10 or the J. Not advisable. If you play the Q, then a spade to your Ace and ruff a club, you are stuck again. A spade back to your King means no more spades in Dummy to ruff your last club. If you play the second diamond and try to ruff a third diamond. If LHO has only two diamonds, he will be in a position to get a trump promotion with his 10 or J.

So, your best line is to pull three round of trumps and play diamonds from the top. When diamonds prove to be 3-2, your other losing club can go on the long diamonds in Dummy (although you use one club ruff to get to Dummy).

Hand #19 had an interesting card combination. RHO passed and you passed with 109765 J85 A72 84. LHO opened a Weak 2 (in third seat) and partner doubled. You duly bid 2 and partner deposited you gently in 4. LHO led the Q. Dummy had: AKQJ4 AK9 54 KJ10. You have one sure diamond loser; two possible club losers (although you strongly suspect the A is on your left given the bidder has so little in his suit). On the surface, you appear to have a heart loser, but look at the spots. You are missing the Queen and the ten, but Dummy has AK9. Best play is to take the diamond and immediately play a club (because you don't have that many entries to your hand). LHO will rise the A and the opponents will cash one more diamond and then force you to ruff a diamond on Dummy. Ruff high (to keep an entry to your 10). Pull three (necessary) rounds of spades, ending with the 10 in your hand. Then put the J on the table. As long as the bidder has the Queen, you are home free because his partner has a singleton. If he covers, play the Ace. Then cash the K and ruff a club to your hand to take the marked heart finesse to the 9 in Dummy. Making 5!