Maritha Pottenger

Hands are from Adventures in Bridge, October 24, 2018.

Pat Sullivan found an excellent end play as Declarer and got a precious overtrick on Hand #19.

Hand #19

East: QJ8 10943 AJ9 K96

West: A10 AKQ8 K103 J742

West opened 1NT and East jumped to 3NT. Normally, with 4-3-3-3 hands, Stayman is not worthwhile, because you have no ruffing value. On this particular hand, 5 can be made double dummy because the 4-4 heart fit allows declarer’s hand to take to act as dummy, taking a spade ruff. Four is the limit at notrump, but Pat managed to make 5NT, a big difference at matchpoints (83% vs. 33%) because her +660 beat 3NT (+600) twice, 3NT+1 (+630) five times, and edged out 4+1 (+650) twice.

The lead was the 5 (fourth-best) which eliminated the queen guess. Pat won the 10 in her hand and played three top hearts. LHO (North) pitched a low spade on the third round. On the fourth heart, both defenders pitched spades. Pat successfully finessed the 10. She cashed the A. Then she cashed the K and A.

RHO (South) showed out on the third diamond, discarding a club. Now, Pat lost the Q to RHO’s known K, endplaying her. If she cashed the A and played a low club, Pat could duck. LHO’s doubleton Queen would fall, making Pat's the J a winner. RHO chose to lead a low club, forcing the Q (the 9 in Dummy was big enough). Then Pat could play a low club toward her J for that precious overtrick.

It is an interesting position if LHO plays small, allowing the 9 to win in Dummy. At that point, Pat knows that South has the A, and her best shot is to play the KING from Dummy (hoping to smother the original Queen doubleton) and promote her Jack. As long as Pat does the best play in clubs, she gets her overtrick. Well done!

Hand #1 was important in terms of visualization and hand evaluation.

North: Q6 1084 KJ3 K7654

South: 109873 AKQ72 2 108

North passed. East passed and South opened 1. West bid 2NT (unusual for the minors). North passed (although North is close to making a double which would show desire to penalty double one or more of West's suits). East bid a simple 3—taking a preference and NOT forward going.

South now bid 3, loving her 5-5 hand. West could not stand it with her gorgeous 17 HCP (although the 4 HCP in hearts and spades are likely to be wasted). She pushed to 4.

North should assume that South is at least 5-5 in the majors, possibly 6-5. It would be suicidal for South to bid a four card heart suit at the three level in this auction where bad breaks are all too likely. North should only consider one bid: double for penalties! Visualizing partner's hand, you know that one or both of your minor suit Kings are relatively useless on offense, but fabulous on defense (located behind the person who has most of the minor-suit honors).

Partner is guaranteed to get bad breaks in one OR both of her majors: West has NO MORE than 3 major-suit cards and she could have fewer. West could be 6-5 in minors. On defense, North should expect to take one club trick and two diamonds tricks. (With West taking the push to 4, you expect the AQ to be in Dummy, so you will score both your J and K.) Your partner opened the bidding, so should be taking AT LEAST one trick—actually should have two quick tricks for her opening bid. So, you expect them to go down two.

If North had the King and Jack in SPADES instead of diamonds, and the A instead of the K, then I would raise partner to game. Filling honors in partner’s long suits are worth their weight in gold (points).

Double dummy 4 is down one. But 4 is down four, both double dummy and it practice (doubled) when North took the push. 4 is down three. Admittedly, partner's third-hand opening followed by bidding at the three level opposite a passed partner was very pushy, but the double of 4 has to be correct on this auction.