Hand 6

From actual play (March 28, 2007). Matchpoints, so try to take as many tricks as possible You pick up a nondescript:


The auction is:

RHO  you  LHO  pd
1C    P   1NT  P
2NT   P   P    P

Yes, a bad hand, a boring contract, and you partner is on lead and will probably lead a diamond, ruining any chance of setting the contract.

Partner leads the 3, ruining any chance of setting the contract. You play fourth from long-strongest. Dummy comes down with


Declarer plays small from the board, you play your six to signal partner he came off to a horrible lead, and declarer wins the trick with the 9. Let's stop here. What is the diamond situation?

Declarer leads a club to the queen, leads a spade to the king in her hand, then leads a second club playing the jack. On the third round of clubs, partner's king of clubs drops.

Declarer runs clubs. This is the part of defense no one likes to talk about -- discarding on dummy's long suit. But it happens and you have to deal with it. So what do you discard? And what is your plan? And most importantly, what do you know about the hidden cards?

Placing the High Cards

The most difficult hands to defend are when declarer has 20+ HCP, because there are so many possibilities. This is easier. Declarer bid 1NT, which has a conventional range of 6-9, though you might have to worry about 5-10. Declarer then turned down an invitation to game, suggest the lower range of 5-7.

If you think about it, declarer probably has the jack of diamonds to play the diamonds that way. Without the jack, most people would play the Q of diamonds on the first trick.

Declarer has shown the king of spades, and declarer almost certainly has the ace of spades. If your partner is good enough to duck with the ace of spades, he is also good enough not to duck -- he wants to keep declarer out of her hand because he doesn't want to be finessed again in spades.

That puts declarer up to 8 HCP. Your partner almost certainly has the AQ of hearts and the A of diamonds.

Declarer could have made it more difficult for you by playing the ace of spades. Then you would have had to make a middle-game inference -- would declarer play to the ace, leaving the spade suit wide open, with an attractive choice of switching to diamonds? No.

Counting Tricks

Declarer has blocked the spade suit. So declarer has 5 club tricks, two spades, and at least 1 diamond. You are not going to set this contract.

On the bright side, declarer does not have 4 hearts, because of the bidding, so you have 1 diamond trick and 4 heart tricks to cash when you get in. Of course, it will be partner who gets in, so it will be up to partner to lead the ace and then the queen from AQx of hearts (if partner has three hearts).

Counting Distribution

The 1NT response to 1C is a somewhat revealing bid. The 1NT responder doesn't have a 4-card major, either doesn't have a diamond suit or doesn't want to mention it, yet probably doesn't have enough clubs to support those. So a flat hand.

In this case, declarer has only 3 clubs. If declarer would have shown a 5-card diamond suit, declarer has to be 3-3-4-3. That leaves partner with 2-3-5-3, from which partner would have logically led a diamond. If declarer has 5 diamonds, then declarer would have probably attacked diamonds rather than clubs.

What now?

We have this as the current situation after the second winning club finesse.
x                      J10xxx
AQx                    Kxxx
Axxx                   -
K                      -

At this point, the correct defense is obvious. You need to save two spades, so that declarer cannot overtake the queen of spades and win a small spade. Otherwise, you save your hearts so that you can cash your long heart and hold declarer to making 2NT.

You might have done this anyway. (It eluded the defender, however). What about partner? At the table, declarer cashed the queen of spades to unblock the suit before leading diamonds. So partner could know the high cards. Otherwise, all you can do is pitch low spades to hopefully signal disinterest in the suit. Actually, you can also afford to pitch the jack of spades, if that will help.