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Early Concession Establishes Suit

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is one of my advanced lesson deals, illustrating a technique of suit establishment. The contract is optimistic (a gentle word for an overbid) and North appears to have bid like a jack rabbit; but all of the bids are reasonable. Anyway, it provides a challenge. Put yourself in the South seat and decide how you would play in six spades after West leads the jack of trumps.

6 S South
None Vul
S A K 3
H A 9 6 4 3
D 2
C A K 7 4

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

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

When planning the play, I recommend the practice of counting winning tricks regardless of the contract. Declarer has five spade tricks assuming a normal trump break (else the slam is hopeless), one heart, two diamonds and two clubs — 10 tricks in all — so he needs to develop two more. One of these can come from a diamond ruff, and the other must come from establishing the club or heart suit.

But which suit? Or more specifically, which is more likely: a 3-3 club break or a 4-3 heart break? If you know the odds, you choose the latter; but that’s only half the battle. Establishing the heart suit is complicated because the enemy has three stoppers and you can ruff only two hearts and still draw trumps. The solution is to concede a heart, and this must be done at a time when the opponents can do no harm.

Now let’s put the plan into action. Win the spade king (you must save dummy’s three to ruff a diamond) and lead the heart three from dummy. This is the ideal time to concede a trick because you have every suit under control. Assume East wins the heart and returns another spade (nothing matters). Win the spade ace, ruff a heart, cash the diamond ace, ruff a diamond, and ruff another heart. Note that the heart ace was not cashed in order to minimize the danger of an enemy overruff.

All that remains is to draw the last trump and cash your diamond king. The dummy is now high with the ace-king of clubs and ace-nine of hearts. The only trouble with making this contract is that your partner may never stop jumping the bidding.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek