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Aspire For Luck but Not Miracles

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is a classic misfit — North has hearts and clubs; South has spades and diamonds. When it occurred in a club game last month, many pairs overbid and/or played in the wrong strain. Against me (I was East) they bid the tenuous slam in diamonds.

6 D South
E-W Vul
S 10
H A J 8 6 2
D 9 6
C A K 6 4 3

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

Lead: C 9
S A J 6 5 4 3
H 7 4
D A K Q J 10

The first four bids were routine, describing two-suiters, with South jumping on the second round to create a game force; then North opted for three notrump. This contract would be easy, but South was not about to give up. Rather than pussyfoot around, he simply bid what he hoped he could make: Six diamonds! Aggressive, yes, but within reason.

My partner led the club nine, taken by dummy’s king as South threw a heart. A spade was led to the ace, and a spade was ruffed with the diamond six. Declarer next cashed the club ace (throwing a spade) and ruffed a club; then another spade was ruffed with dummy’s last trump. Declarer’s remaining spades were now good. That’s the good news. The bad news is that South must ruff to get back to his hand, after which he will be unable to draw West’s trumps and enjoy the spades. Whatever he does, declarer can win only 11 tricks; down one.

Essentially, declarer’s line of play required a 3-3 break in both spades and diamonds (in which case he would win all the tricks) — somewhat of a miracle, about 13 percent. Perhaps you spotted the superior line of play, which requires a 3-3 break only in spades, while diamonds may divide 3-3 or 4-2. Declarer is still not a favorite, but his chances rise to about 30 percent — but more importantly here, it works.

After ruffing the first spade in dummy, declarer should draw trumps in four rounds. It is a simple matter then to concede a spade trick while South has a trump remaining. Lucky? Of course, but not outrageously so.

Did you notice that an original trump lead will defeat the contract no matter how declarer plays? I’ll have to talk to my partner about his opening leads.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek