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The Jettison Defense

Board 43 went unnoticed in the 2013 Bermuda Bowl Final, not because the match was an Italian runaway (what else is new) but because only an additional overtrick was at stake. Three notrump making five or six is hardly an important issue, but the defensive principle involved is noteworthy. The jettison defense should be a part of every expert’s arsenal. Below is the unfateful deal (rotated to South declarer).

3 NT S K J 10 6 4
H K 9 6 2
D 8
C A Q 8
None Vul

West
Bocchi

Pass
Pass

Fantoni

Pass
Pass


North
Helness

2 H
3 H

Lauria

2 D
3 H


East
Madala
Pass
Pass
Pass

Nunes
Pass
Pass
Pass


South
Helgemo
1 NT
2 S
3 NT

Versace
1 NT
2 H
3 NT
S Q 8 2
H A J 10 3
D K 10 9 5 3
C 2
Table S 9 7 5
H Q 4
D 7 2
C J 10 9 7 4 3
Lead: D 3 S A 3
H 8 7 5
D A Q J 6 4
C K 6 5

Helness of Monaco (not to be confused with Hell yes, I’m from Norway) described his 5-4 shape with a Jacoby transfer sequence. Lauria’s method is unfamiliar to me, but I’m sure it indicated the same shape. Both Souths could then deduce the absence of a major fit and place the contract. Most American players would begin with Stayman, followed by a jump to 3 S (or 3 H if playing Smolen) — but it’s pointless to compare our primitive ways with super-powers the likes of Italy and Monaco.

Both Wests led the D 3 — attitude (I think) for Bocchi, Slavinski for Fantoni — and both declarers happily accepted the cheap trick in dummy. Five rounds of spades followed with a routine finesse, East pitching two clubs; South, a heart and two diamonds; and West, two diamonds. Both declarers then cashed C A-Q to leave the following ending with North on lead.

Declarer next crossed to the C K, and West had to discard a heart to protect the D K. A heart toward dummy then left West defenseless. If he ducked, he would be endplayed on the next round. If he won the ace, he could only choose his poison: lead a diamond into the waiting jaws, or return a heart and watch dummy take the rest.

Helgemo thus won 12 tricks. (So did Versace according to the play record, though he was mysteriously credited with only 11.)
North
leads
S
H K 9 6 2
D
C 8
S
H A J 10
D K 10
C
Table S
H Q 4
D 7
C J 10
S
H 8 7
D A Q
C K

Dead Weight

Aces are great, but sometimes dead weight. The winning defense is for West to jettison the H A on the C K. Declarer must now lose two tricks; if he tries to establish hearts, East can gain the lead to cash a club. From West’s point of view he is D.O.A. to win two tricks if South remains with H Q-x, so the only hope is to find partner with it.

I have no doubt that Bocchi and Fantoni would both have found the jettison against six notrump — ignoring the fact that they wouldn’t create the predicament (a safe club lead stands out against a slam) — but a measly overtrick does not pique the interest in a long IMP match, especially this time when Italy had a sizable lead.

Preparatory Jettison

Another aspect of the jettison defense is that it sometimes requires preparation. Suppose West started with H A-Q-10-3, and East H J-4. It would not be sufficient to keep H A-Q-10 (or A-Q-3) in the above ending, as discarding the ace would still leave West in a bind; declarer could force West to win the defenders’ heart trick with routine avoidance technique. Instead West must jettison the queen early, retaining H A-10-3, which stymies declarer.

If West began with H A-Q-J-3 and East H 10-4, a winning defense is still available thanks to declarer’s lack of communication in diamonds. West must divest both quacks while the lead is in dummy, coming down to H A-3 D K-10-9, then the ace goes away on the C K as before.

For an extreme jettison defense see the puzzle A Ditch in Time.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek