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Proper Slam Play Defies Analysis

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal was submitted by a reader who wanted to know the right play in six clubs (after a club lead and finding that clubs split two-two). The actual bidding was not given so I have shown an expert auction: Two clubs is Stayman and the rebid of three clubs shows a real club suit — forcing to game in modern methods. Three diamonds shows the ace and implies club support (otherwise opener would bid three notrump); three hearts shows a heart suit; three notrump is natural; four clubs shows slam interest; and four hearts shows the heart ace. South needs no more encouragement to bid the slam.

6 C South
Both Vul
S K 10 4 3
H A J 3
D A J 6
C K 10 2

1 NT
2 S
3 D
3 NT
4 H
2 C
3 C
3 H
4 C
6 C
S Q 8 6 2
H 9 5 4
D Q 8 7 4
C 6 5
TableS A J 9 7
H Q 10 7
D 10 9 5 2
C 4 3

Lead: C 5
S 5
H K 8 6 2
D K 3
C A Q J 9 8 7

The right play? As I see it there are three reasonable lines to consider: A. Cash the ace-king of hearts then, if the heart queen does not drop, win the diamond king and finesse the diamond jack (to discard a spade). B. Lead a spade to the king — if East wins the ace, then take the heart finesse; if West hops with the ace, declarer reverts to Line A (with slightly better chances because of squeeze possibilities); if West ducks the ace… claim! C. Lead a low diamond to the jack (retain the king for deceptive purposes) — if it loses and East does not return a spade, declarer still succeeds if the heart finesse works.

Mind boggling! It is apparent that each of the alternatives is better than even money; but none appears to stand out. I calculate Line A to be 59.8 percent; however, the other two lines cannot be determined precisely because of unknown factors. For example, in Line B, how often will West hop with the spade ace if he has it? I would guess about half the time, in which case Line B is superior to Line A. Similar arguments can be stated for Line C; but enough is enough.

In summary, if our reader chose any of the proposed lines, he played it well; but I suspect he chose Line B, which is the only one that fails as the cards lie. This just proves what we knew all along: The “right” play is the one that works.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek