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WEEK BEGINNING MONDAY, 1 JUNE 2020
HAND OF THE WEEK
THE VALUE THE ACE OF TRUMPS WHEN DEFENDING
BY NICK WOOLVEN
With so many hands being played on line now, chances come thick and fast to note down good/bad plays. The following hand was well defended by East/West.
Vulnerability: Love all (nobody is vulnerable)
You are West with the hand below:
North opens the bidding with 1C and South bids 1D so you, not unreasonably, try 1H. After 1S from North, your partner springs to life with a preemptive 3H. However, South finishes proceedings with a jump to 4S.
To recap the bidding:
North East South West
1C Pass 1D 1H
1S 3H 4S Pass
At the table, North/South were playing strong NT and 5 card majors so North had to have 5+ clubs and 4 spades (or possibly 4144). Partner duly leads the two of hearts and, as the defender, you can see that even with a minimum 5-4 hand with North, partner cannot have much for their raise to 3H so it will be down to you to beat the contract. It looks like we have two heart tricks and the ace of trumps but what is the chance of a 4th trick? If declarer has 6 clubs we can give partner a ruff straight away, get in with a heart, give another club ruff and make the Ace of spades. The contract will then be 2 down. This puts all our eggs in one basket.
Alternatively, we could hope that partner has Q and another spade (as just about their only points) and then we would get two spade tricks and 2 heart tricks. We could also lead a club, get in with the ace of spades and give partner a club ruff for one down. In all of these instances, we are assuming that, with an unbalanced hand and 5 hearts, partner would have just raised to 4H. In other words, declarer must be 4-2-2-5 or 4-2-1-6 (the latter would mean partner has 7 diamonds and be void in clubs). The last alternative is to just exit with a diamond, win the ace of spades and underlead your hearts, hoping that partner has the Jack. They then give you the diamond ruff for one down. This requires partner to have the JH.
What are we going to choose?
You win the first heart and play a club as this looks like the best option. (You are taking North for having 5 clubs and 4 spades, there are 3 clubs on the table and you have 4 so your partner cannot have many.) Declarer wins in dummy (partner following) and plays 10S from dummy. (Are they going to finesse?). Do not be fooled, just win the ace of spades and give partner their club ruff. If you duck, declarer will just play another spade and partner’s club ruff has gone. Even if partner has Q and another spade, this beats the contract. On the actual hand, either leading a club at trick two or leading a diamond works, as partner has the Jack of hearts.
The point of the hand is that if you are defending and have the Ace of trumps you have a lot of control and, if you remember the bidding and try to formulate hands, the obvious line of play will become apparent.
“We welcome feedback on this column from members, either about this hand or suggesting another hand to cover in future articles. Feedback should be sent to Mike Ferguson on firstname.lastname@example.org”