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7: Some Play Practise

Learning Points from Play Practice

Hand 1 Dealer S

N—S: K 7 3. H: K Q 5 2  D: 9 4 2  C: A Q 5.

E—S: 9 8. H: T 8. D: Q J T 6 5. C: J 8 6 4

S—S: A 6 5. H: 9 6 3. D: A K 8 3. C: K 9 3

W—S: Q J T 4 2. H:A J 7 4. D: 7. C: T 7 2

1 When S opens 1NT and despite all my labouring of investigative responses, when N, with a balanced hand (3334) and the right point count, should consider bashing to 3NT. You don’t have to investigate a fit even when your 4-card suit is a major.

  • If partner is also balanced there will be no ruffing potential anyway.
  • You give the opponents extra chances to indicate their holdings to one another.
  • You give the opponents some more information about the closed hand.

2 When you hold a good solidly headed suit, lead the highest against a NT contract (in this case Q from QJTxx).

  • This may immediately trap the K if dummy holds it and partner has the ace. 
  • Is safe, even if partner has no high card in your suit. 
  • Encourages a safe return of your suit when partner gets the lead.
  • Is normal play so partner with the A will be able to judge when to play if even if dummy does not hold the K.

3 Avoid obsessing over exact point counts. In particular, try to dissuade you partner from the common malpractice of wasting “2S” and “2NT” as subtly different invitational bids over “1NT”. In this hand, despite 28 HCP between the hands, the game depended on finding AH onside: your best plan is to hope for this but prepare what you will next do if this fails (when the AH is in the E hand). Here the only serious remaining hope is a 3-3 break in a red suit.

4 There is no need for declarer to hold up either stopper in S: either E will have run out after 2 rounds and can’t lead them back or they are breaking evenly.

Hand 2 Dealer W

W—S: A Q 3. H: K 9 6. D: Q J 2. C: K Q 7 2

N—S: J 9 5. H: A J 7 4 3. D: 8 5. C: J 8 5

E—S: K 8 2. H: 8 2. D: A T 9 4 3. C: A 6 3

S—S: T 7 6 4. H: Q T 5. D K 7 6. C T 9 4

Without a good honours sequence, the opening lead is usually “the fourth highest of longest and strongest”. Here 4H. Actually, the lead should be in the partnership’s strongest suit so consider trying to find partner’s suit, especially if your own hand is short of entries: no point establishing your suit if you can’t get in to enjoy it! Rule of 11: if you think the opening lead is 4th highest, the difference between 11 and the number of spots on the card shows how many higher cards the opener leader does not have. If he leads the 7, there are 4 higher cards in the other 3 hands. You can see how many you have and the dummy have: the other closed hand has the rest.

Declarer plans the hand: 3S, 1H (on the heart lead), 1D, 3C. That’s only 8! Chances for the extra trick are D finesse or long club. Try both in the  right order. If clubs break 3-3 (as they will about 35.5% of the time) you can make your contract without risking the finesse. You must tackle these two methods in the right order.

At trick one, it is normal for third hand to play their highest card. In this case the Q (one would withhold this only if dummy had the jack). Assuming dummy does not, either declarer or partner has it. If declarer, he is not entitled to a trick with it. To play the T is sometimes described as a finesse against partner: always a bad idea. In this hand, declarer must grab his HK at trick one or S will hold the trick and lead another H through the K into North’s A J, making no H tricks and going down immediately.

Incidentally, had N led a D, hoping to find partner’s suit, the contract fails. W has had no chance to test the clubs so must take the D finesse now (an even chance except that the underlead of a K would be unusual). When it fails, The H switch looks obvious (with dummy’s weakness) and the contract goes 2 down.

Hand 3 Dealer N

N—S: K Q 9 4 3. H: K 8 7. D: A 4. C: A 9 2

E—S: T 7. H: Q T 6 4 3. D: K 9. C: K Q J 4

S—S: A 6 5. H: A 5. D: J 8 5 3 2. C: 7 6 3

W—S: J 8 2. H: J 9 2. D: Q T 7 6. C: T 8 5

Declarer opened 1S (too strong to open 1NT and anyway the KQxxx is marginal to be over keen on spades). Response was 2S—fair support for what is probably a 5-card suit plus 2 first round controls and a ruffing value (much better than 1NT, opener can retreat to NT if he has only 4, also much better than 2D—hand may meet rule of 14 but the suit is poor). The opener jumped to 4S.

Superficially a choice of opening lead but while 4th highest (a heart) might be a good lead against NT, here the top club from a solid sequence can cost nothing and may establish a couple of C tricks.

The other key point is that declarer must ruff a H before drawing all the trumps. The book has you play H immediately but I can’t see why you wouldn’t draw 2 rounds of trumps first (though it only gains when the hand with 3 trumps also has 6H).

Hand 4 Dealer E

E—S: A 8 6. H: K 7 6 3. D: K J 8 2. C: K 6

S—S: Q J 7 5 2. H: Q T 4. D: 6 5. C: 7 3 2

W—S: T 3. H: A 5 2. D: Q T 9 3. C: A Q 8 5

N—S: K 9 4. H: J 9 8. D: A 7 4. C: J T 9 4

1NT, 3NT and the normal 4th spade to the K and? Don’t play too fast to trick 1! The plan is 1S, 2H, 3C so you have to extract 3 tricks from D after driving out the A. If S (with the presumed long spades) holds it, your contract fails. So play for it in the N hand. Hold off KS till the third round, When N does hold AD if S are 5-3 he can’t get back to the S hand, while if they are 4-4 they can’t cash enough to harm you.

Learning Point Summary

Note: there are always counter-examples and different contexts: these suggestions are not universal!

Lead highest from a well-headed suit such as QJTxxx

Holding up high cards may break defensive communications.

A trick source is more important than mere HCP in NT contracts.

Use Rule of 11 to try and place the other high cards.

When you have two chances, plan in which order to try them

If dummy has a short suit, consider delaying drawing trumps till you have scored a ruff.

Pre-emptive Bidding Introduction

Try not to pre-empt your partner! You can’t with a third in hand pre-empt and can be very flexible. Second in hand you are equally likely to pre-empt partner and an opponent so should keep closer to a mainstream pre-empt. First in hand, with two opponents and one partner yet to bid, the odds allow some flexibility in pre-emption.

Obviously all pre-emptive hands will be shapely. To evaluate the suitability of hands for pre-emption, think about the offense to defence ratio. (I accept that “attack” seems a more natural term than offense. I’ll stick with offense for 2 reasons: that is the normal term; attack has a technical meaning in play and confusion might arise later.) We only briefly touched on this. Factors to consider are HCP, shape (especially number of trumps), concentration of values and type of values (Q or J are great in your trump suit, near useless in defense, even a K in your long suit may not take a trick). We will continue with this next week.