Maritha Pottenger

So many hands, so little time. Today, August 15, 2018 at Adventures in Bridge, a number of hands were worthy of note. Support doubles came up about six times—either with the double or the inference that partner did NOT make a support doubles indicating not to get excited with that 5-card major as responder. Do remember, however, that support doubles are played ONLY through 2—because sometimes partner has no choice but to play in the 4-3 fit, so you don't want to be above the two level with minimal values. Support doubles are among my list of “8 conventions to play” because they come up so often. If you want a handout about support doubles, email me and ask.

Board #18 presented a Declarer play issue. You are playing 3NT in the North with A4 KJ4 A83 A10987 opposite Dummy's K983 Q53 QJ9 KJ3 with the lead of the 2. A low spade from Dummy goes to Jack and your Ace. So, you need to decide which way to finesse in clubs. Proper technique, when missing the Queen, if you have enough cards and entries is to cash ONE high honor first, and then finesse. There are two reasons to play the K (in Dummy) first and then run the Jack toward your hand. The most important reason is that you can pick up Qxxx in the West hand (after the safety play of King in case either opponent has a singleton Queen). You canNOT pick up Qxxx in the East hand if you make the safety play of the Ace first. The second reason is “vacant spaces.” You know that East has four spades to West's three spades, so there is slightly more room in the West hand for club cards.

Board #26 was a defensive challenge. West opened a strong NT. North passed. East bid 2 (transfer) and West accepted the transfer to spades. Pass, pass and South (you), holding 5 J1096 A108642 32, balanced with 3. (Both sides are vulnerable, but you have a six card suit and partner is marked for some cards behind the no trump opener, so should have some positional advantage.) West takes the push to 3 and all pass. Partner leads the K and then the 9. Dummy hits with: 87642 854 Q73 A6. As you take the A on the second round, Declarer's Jack falls so the Queen is now good in Dummy. It looks natural to play a third round of diamonds because partner can ruff behind Declarer, but you need to think more deeply about the hand.

Declarer will be able to throw a loser while your partner ruffs. Since your partner is marked with either three or four spades, she may be ruffing with a natural trump trick. Plus, partner is likely to be end played if she ruffs the diamond. This is your last chance to lead something effective from your side of the table, so your best play is the J. That will go to King and partner's Ace. The 3 comes back (so partner either started with A3 or A32), and your 9 forces Declarer's Queen. Poor Declarer cannot pull trumps yet because partner has the A, and he is hoping to get a quick discard from Dummy. He plays the A, then King and the Q from his hand, discarding a losing heart from Dummy, and you get to ruff with your singleton the 5. Now you play a high heart and partner ruffs with the 9 while Dummy throws away the good the Q. Partner gets out with a club, Declarer ruffs on dummy and pays a spade to his King. Partner takes Ace and exits with another club. She still has Jx of spades behind Declarer's Q10, so she is getting one more spade trick. We have taken seven tricks, so Declarer is down 3. Returning a diamond at trick three would lead to only down 2.

Bidding was in focus on Board #2. RHO opened 1 and you overcalled 1 with AKQ987 105 J A762. LHO bid 2 and partner raised me to 2. RHO bid 4 and I took my 5-loser hand to 4. (We are red and they are white.) Alas, after pass, pass, RHO took the push to 5 and I doubled. (This is a forcing pass situation as we have freely bid to a vulnerable game, so my pass tells partner that I have two quick heart losers. If you want a handout on the Forcing Pass, email me and ask. Unfortunately for us, we could only beat this one trick. I took two top spades, then the A and partner's winning club was ruffed. Declarer guessed the diamonds well (finessing to Queen first round while my singleton Jack fell and returning to Dummy with a trump [judicious with his trump spots] to finesse partner out of her King). Down only one. We will make 4 IF I start the clubs with the A, and—when the Jack falls on my right—follow the principle of “Restricted Choice” to finesse LHO for the Queen on the next couple rounds of the suit.