Maritha Pottenger

Hands are from Adventures in Bridge, November 28, 2018.

Hand #11

East: AK543 Q65 A63 102

West: J9 J10982 4 AKQ86

South (on your right) passes and you open your shapely 11-count 1. Partner responds 1. RHO passes again, and you rebid 2. Now LHO contributes 2. Partner bids 3. You bid 4, and partner bids 4. The lead is the K.

Time to take stock. You must lose two top hearts. They have found the “tap suit” (diamonds) which will force you to ruff in the long-trump hand, so you have to be careful not to lose control of the hand. You also need to consider the fourth round of clubs. That suit is more likely to divide 4-2 than 3-3. If so, you need to ruff a club in the short-trump hand (Dummy) before you finish pulling trumps.

So, play a low heart to your 8. LHO will take the K and almost certainly play another high diamond which you ruff. NOW cash two top clubs and ruff a club high with the Q. If RHO wants to over-ruff, s/he will have to use the A to do so. If South discards, play another heart. RHO can take the A and force you to ruff the third round of diamonds, but you can still pull the last trump; run your clubs from the top; and get two top spades.

If you pull trumps without taking a club ruff in Dummy, you go down. If you do not ruff the third round of clubs with the Q, you go down.

Hand #16

West: AQ107 J74 K63 KJ10

East: KJ2 AK8 A9 A9764

Partner (West) opens 1. If you were playing Minorwood, you could just bid 4 (or 2 followed by 4), but that is not on your card. You bid 2 (Inverted Minors) and partner rebids 2, which shows a spade stopper, not necessarily a four card suit. With Minorwood unavailable, you decide partner is likely to have one Ace and two Kings for her opening bid, so you blast into regular Blackwood (4NT). Partner shows one Ace. You ask for Kings and partner shows two Kings. So, you place the contract in 6NT—for the best matchpoint score. [If partner has the Q, you will take five clubs, and two top tricks in the other three suits. You'll need the spade finesse or another Queen in partner's hand for the 12th trick. If partner does NOT have the Q, she still could have four or five clubs with the Q falling, and then she is very likely to have at least one other Queen for her opening bid. So 12 tricks in NT have very good chances.]

The proper way to play this club suit is to start with the K. When you are missing the Q with five cards outstanding, the percentage play is to finesse. However, best technique is to cash EITHER the Ace OR the King on the first round of the suit (in case the Q is singleton). If you cash the A first, you have to sacrifice the 10 in the West hand which is much too valuable. So, you should cash the K, and then let the J ride. If you play the clubs this way, you'll take 13 tricks.

Hand #25

East: KQ92 J53 1054 Q75

West: A105 KQ74 J873 A9

As West, you are playing 1NT with the 2 lead (fourth-best).

The 9 in your hand is a very strong card. Unless you are in a situation where you need to try to “take the money and run,” it is best to play a LOW club from Dummy. If RHO (South) plays the K, you can kill it with the A, and Dummy's Q will be good. If RHO plays the J, you can take your A and hope that LHO (North) has the K—in which case Dummy's Q will be a second stopper on the third round of the suit. If RHO has BOTH the K and the 10, he must play the 10 (finessing against Dummy)—which not every single person will do. If he plays the 10, you take your A. Again, if LHO has the K, your Q will be a second stopper. If RHO has the K and the 10, LHO still has to get the lead (after you take your A), to finesse Dummy's Q another time. When you play low from Dummy, RHO plays the 10, so you take your A.

It is correct to play hearts next. Do NOT play spades before hearts. In order to get four spade tricks you need a 3-3 break OR a doubleton Jack. If neither of those occurs, playing spades from the top develops a trick for the opponents. You do not want to do that UNTIL you develop your tricks in the other suits. Play a low heart toward the J. LHO will play the 10. RHO will probably take the A, and she now has a problem. She does NOT want to cash the K because that would give you a trick with the Q in Dummy. She does not want to play a spade from her J843 with four of them in Dummy. She may try her singleton the K, but is probably not eager to do so because you opened 1. She will probably return a heart.

If RHO returns a heart, you take your K and notice that LHO now plays the 9. The odds are that RHO has the 8. [It is very unlikely that LHO has EXACTLY the 1098 of hearts, plus RHO will be returning a low heart which looks like an original holding of four hearts.] So, now you can cash the top three spades (noticing that LHO shows out on the third round with a discard that shows a good diamond holding). You can then finesse RHO's the 8 by playing low to your 7 and then cashing your Q. You will take three hearts, three spades, and one club.

If RHO tries a spade (attempting to reach partner for another club through) instead of another heart, you can insert the 10. In that case, you get four spades, three hearts and one club for an overtrick. [Of course, if RHO cashes the K, that will give an overtrick as well.]

As always, watching those spot cards is very important.