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Expert Technique Avoids Guess

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal arose in a local club game and provides a good lesson in declarer-play technique. The bidding was the same at most tables: North made a takeout double of West’s preemptive opening and this prompted South to bid six notrump after checking for aces with Blackwood.

6 NT South
None Vul
S K Q 10
H 8 2
D A 9 7
C A 10 9 6 5
3 H
5 H
4 NT
6 NT
S 7 2
H K Q J 10 7 5 4
D 6 3
C Q 2
TableS 9 6 5 4 3
H 6
D 10 8 5 4 2
C 4 3

Lead: H K
S A J 8
H A 9 3
C K J 8 7

Six notrump is a reasonable contract, needing only to bring home the club suit. Let’s consider the play as it might have occurred at three different tables.

“Average Ann” was declarer at table one. After winning the second heart lead, she considered the play of the club suit. She had a combined holding of nine cards and, because of the popular maxim, “eight ever; nine never,” she knew never to finesse for the queen. Therefore, Ann cashed the top clubs and made her contract. Well done.

“Thoughtful Tom” was at the wheel at table two. He also won the second heart lead and considered the play of the club suit. He knew the normal percentage play holding nine cards, but this was not a “normal” situation. With hearts divided seven-one, the odds greatly favored East to hold longer clubs. Therefore, Tom led a club to dummy’s ace and finessed the jack on the way back. Oops! Down six.

“Expert Ernie” held the South cards at table three. He too won the second heart lead; but he was in no hurry to tackle the club suit. To find out more about the enemy distribution, he first cashed all his winners in the other suits. Ernie learned that West began with two spades and two diamonds. Combined with his known seven-card heart suit, this left West with exactly two clubs — no more, and no less. Consequently, cashing the top clubs was a 100-percent guarantee to make the contract.

In conclusion: Ann was lucky and Tom was unlucky. And for Ernie? He didn’t need any luck.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek