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Bridge Hands From The Club
 
 
  Friday 05/12 Board 4 Bridge Studio

This is the case of the vanishing loser.  The defense starts by leading two spades and then the 8 from south. You have lost two tricks and it appears you have at least one trump loser and a diamond loser.  How do you proceed?

There are two choices.  You can play the 10 finessing the QJ .  For that to be right south must be underleading both, not likely. The other chance takes a bit more imagination. What if trump break 3-2 and the defender with the long trump can't lead diamonds, or clubs.  Aha! They will be forced to lead a spade allowing a ruff and discard of that meddlesome diamond. So, rise with the A , cash two rounds of trump, Then the K (a doubleton diamond is more likely than singleton) then run the clubs. If a defender ruffs in and is also out of diamonds, they will be forced to lead a spade. If all four clubs win, pitch a diamond on the fourth club and lead a trump. The defender who wins and is out of diamonds will be forced to give you a ruff and discard.

This is a classic position that occurs more often than one might thinksmiley

 

FORM
  Wednesday 05/10 Board 8 Bridge Studio

Forunately you stopped in 3♠ as that is tough enough to make.  East leads the Q .  Did you cover? West plays the A and returns the 2♣ .  Do you play low or play J♣ ? West plays the K♣ and you play the A♣ .  Now lead a spade to your K♠ and West's A♠ .  West now leads J .  Plan the rest.

If you covered the Q you are in trouble.  If not, play the K now.  West will ruff and lead a trump. East show out, so west holds a winning trump.  Cash the A and put west back in with a trump.  If west has the 10♣ they are endplayed........since you had the forsight to play a high club at trick two.  They must lead a club or a diamond.  If its a diamond, you can discard a heart and a club from your hand on the KJ .  If its a club, play low from your hand winning with the 8♣ , and pitch your losing heart on the K

There are two lessons in the play that are useful.  The first is when to play the K . It shouldn't be played at trick one because east surely as the A and might only have one or two hearts and have to play it anyway. When hearts are played the second time covering forces west to ruff with a natural trump winner AND forces the lead into west's hand.

The second involves which club to play at trick two. If you play low , and west has the 10♣  you win 3 clubs but can never get to the K .  If you play high and west has the 10♣ west is likely to be endplayed, either with a winning trump or the 10♣ . If the trump break you can afford the club loser if it forces west to lead diamonds.  

FORM

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  Monday Evening 05/08 Board 8 Bridge Studio

Many good players I know consider North's hand too strong for a weak 2♠ .  After the 1♠ opener south can visualize slam possibities. 

East favors you with the 6 lead. (A diamond lead would be troublesome).  East leads low from honor, second high from 4 small.  Whats your plan.  You play the 7 from dummy, which draws the 10 covered by the KWhat next?

Double Dummy Alert:  Six spades can be made after a diamond lead.  See if you can find the winning line looking at all four handsdevil

You have a club loser and diamond loser. Nothing can be done about the club loser but the diamond could be discarded on the fourth round of clubs, or a good heart.  An immediate low club to dummy might work, if east has the A♣ and rises.  But if east ducks or west wins and switches to a diamond you may not be able to take advantage of the heart option. 

West likely holds the Q and it can be ruffed out setting up a heart winner.  So draw trump, play a heart to the ace and play the J (or 9), and ruff the Q .  The A  provides an entry to the good fourth heart.

After a diamond lead, you can still set up the fourth heart but dont have the diamond entry, so win the K , play to A and another , ruffing.  Now draw two rounds of trump ending in dummy, play the J pitching a diamond.   East with the last spade  must follow suit.  Now ruff a diamond and claim.

FORM

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  Thursday 05/04 Board 2 Bridge studio

East leads 2♣ of clubs, west winning the KA♣ .

Now West can:

1. Lead a trump.

2. Force declare to ruff a club with the singleton spade.

3. Put declarer in dummy with a red card.

What do you choose and why?

Bridge is a fascinating game; and part of the fascination is there is no end to the challenges confronting even the best players. Consider East’s dilemma. On the bidding declarer holds at a minimum six very good spades, more likely seven, and possibly eight.  Partner therefore can hold at most three, and maybe only one. Declarer may have no trump losers, but then again what if he is missing the K, or Q?

Then west might hold Qx or K.  You wouldn’t want to force declarer to lead high trumps from his hand because that could be the only winning choice.  So east craftily leads a red card to dummy’s K, hoping declarer will finesse.

But….declarer knows east to be an excellent player, who holding the Qxx would surely have led a club forcing the ruff in dummy, thereby eliminating the finesse.  Therefore, declarer leads the 8 of spades and confidently plays the AK of spades capturing the Queen offside.  It’s quite a game!

FORM

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  Monday 05/01 Board 18 Bridge Studio

East leads the 3♣ to the 4,Q, A♣ .  If the cards cooperate you can draw trump and pitch three losers on diamonds, scoring 6♠ .  But.. should you protect yourself at matchpoints, and if so whats your plan?

If you lose a spade finesse you lose a spade 2 clubs and a heart before you regain the lead.  I don't like those odds.  Other choices are leading a second club planning a ruff in dummy, and playing KA♠ and running diamonds pictching a club first. I like the last line.  Its best when spades are 3-2 and diamonds no worse than 4-2.  It has added benefit of scoring large when...the Q♠  is doubleton and diamonds are 3-3...scoring six!

An added benefit of playing KA♠ is if West holds Qxx they may be endplayed in hearts. 

FORM

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  Friday 04/28 Board 18 Bridge Studio

After making an agressive two suited bid vulnerable, partner has done you no favors by raising to 3 .  West leads the 4♠ . Can you take advantage of the bidding and make the contract?

Declarer's understanding of this hand begins with the bidding. North/south hold 23 HCP, East has advertised 15, therefore west can hold at most 2.  Declarer should expect west to hold K♠ ,AK ,A at a minimum.  So rise with the A♠ and lead a diamond to the 10 .  East will play the A but then what? East returns a club to dummy's K♣ .  Now lead a small trump planning to play the Q if east plays low. Ruff a club, capturing the Q♣ . Now play a winning  pitching either ♠ or ♣ . Finally lead a trump insuring west does not get a diamond ruff. 

If East rises with A at trick four hoping to give west a diamond ruff, pitch a spade and lead another trump. You may end up with ten trickslaugh

FORM

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  Monday April 24 Board 20 Bridge Studio

You have bid to the only makeable game.(Its not your fault that none of the EW pairs defending 3NT found a diamond lead).  Your opponents cash two diamonds and lead a third, which you ruff.  You ten top tricks, 5♣ , 3 ,2♠ . How do you play to maximize your chances for eleven tricks?

The eleventh trick will likely come from either the thirteeth heart or a successful spade finesse.  By carefully taking your tricks in the right order you keep all options open. Draw four rounds of trump and cash the A♠ .(The Q♠ might be singleton.) Now play three rounds of hearts ending with the K . When hearts break 3-3 the eleventh trick is yours. If the 10 was not good at this point, you are in position to take the spade finesse.

FORM
  Thursday 04/13 Board 8 Bridge Studio

"It's a bidders game." We've all experienced it at the table. Opponents opening and overcalling with suspect values. Often these bids make accurate bidding difficult. Agressive bidding may also aid defenders in getting off to the right lead....But declarer is listening also and can benefit from the "generosity" of the opponents.  This had is a good example. Both 3NT and 5♣ are reasonable contracts, needing declarer to successfully locate the K♣ .  At this table East led the 9 , responding to partners overcall.  Declarer won the third round with the A .  Time to play clubs......whats your plan?

The odds favor the finesse. There are eight possible arrangements of the outstanding clubs; Kxx, Kx(2), K  in east, or in west.  In four cases the finesse works, and in only 2 cases does the K♣ fall singleton. But listening to the bidding mamay provide an extra chance.  You know from the bidding and play so far, that east held five diamonds to the KQ, and west is now out. You also know that west is likely to hold A , from the bidding.  If true then west cannot defeat the contract by winning the K♣ (2 ,1 ,1♣ ). So give yourself an extra chance and play for the drop.  When the single K♣ falls offside, you are rewarded.

But, you say this is matchpoints! wont I lose when Kx or Kxx is onside to those taking finesse.  You will but in this case it looks like the better, and safer game is 5♣, and some wont find game. Taking every chance to go plus is a winnersmiley

FORM

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  Friday 04/07 Board 27 Bridge Studio

WARNING!  For Bridge Geeks Only

Four pairs bid to 4♠ or more.  The A♣ is lead with a switch to a  .  The K♠ is onside.  No declarer made 6♠ .  Where did they go wrong?  Should they have found the winning play?

Every declarer started with Q or 10♠ from dummy.  They eventually had to lose the 4th round of spades to north.  To lose no spades declarer must lead the 5♠ toward the J♠ .  When the K♠ pops declarer has no spade losers.  Should declarer make this play?  The surprising answer is no!

It is literally more trouble than its worth.  The probability of a singleton K♠ in south's hand is 2.8%.  But when the 5♠ is not covered declarer bust return to dummy to repeat the finesse.  The probability of one defender being void in diamonds or hearts, and therefore able to ruff,  is 3.9%. 

So technically that risk is greater. Had declarer been able to return to dummy in a suit in which they had less than 8 cards, the probabilty of a defender being void would be 1.5% or less, therefore justifying the play of the 5♠ .

 

FORM

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  Wednesday 04/05 Board 14 Bridge Studio

West leads a fourth best spade. Do you duck?  Assume you rise with the A♠ .  Whats your plan? How do you play clubs?

At one table East opened 2 and declarer received the 7 lead, 2, J, winning the K . Would your plan change....at matchpoints?

Count your tricks! If the clubs come home and hearts break no worse than 4-2, you have 13 tricks. Therefore no reason to duck a spade. The play on clubs is determined by the position of the K . If you have to lose a club, you want west to win so the K is protected. So, play the K♣ next, 6, 2, Q.  When the Q♣  falls you now have two reasons to finnesse the J♣ . Primarily you dont want west on lead.  Second this is a restricted choice decision.  It is twice as likely East holds the remaining two clubs than West holds the J♣ .  When the finnesse works test the hearts.  When they break claim 13 tricks.

So how do you play when a diamond is led and you are allowed to win the K .  The bidding suggests that West is more likely to have 3 clubs (East opened 2 ,guess who? ).  And since there is no longer the K  to protect it makes sense to to play the A♣ first and another club. Unfortunately this results in a third round club loser that declarer cannot afford.  So the best declarer can do is claim 10 tricks.

FORM

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  Monday 04/03 Board 24 Bridge Studio

Partner leads a fourth best 3 of spades, dummy contributes the 5, and you play ....

Play the 8♠ .  If you reflexively rise with the J♠ , you miss an opportunity.  Declarer is known to have two spades, at least one of which is the 10, Q, or K.  If declarer holds two of the three, your play makes no difference.  When declarer holds one of the three, playing the 8 prevents dummy's 9♠ from becoming a fourth round threat. It is true that when declarer holds the 10x of spades, playing the 8 permits declarer an immediate spade winner, that the J would prevent.

The odds favor playing the 8, making declarer's path to nine tricks more difficultsmiley

FORM

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  Wednesday 03/29 Board 17 Bridge Studio

Many good bridge players follow a maxim "If they don't cover, they don't have it!" Let's say as delarer you hold AK109x opposite Jxx.  You lead the J, planning to finesse the Q.  If right hand opponent doesn't cover, assume they don't have the Q and overtake with the A, hoping to drop the singleton or doubleton Q offside.

Here, you are in a similar situation. After A , and another  to the K , you play the Q♠ . West plays the 2♠ .  Should you continue the finesse, or assume west does not have the K♠ and rise with the A♠ ?

The astute west should not cover the Q♠ as he has time to see partners' card(s) before deciding whether it's necessary to cover the honor. Therefore, declarer should allow the finesse to play out. But there are many west's who , especially when the J♠ is not visible, would cover the Q♠ . If you are one of those defenders, and declarer knows it, you will be amazed when declarer covers his own Q♠ with the A♠ and watches the singleton K♠ fall.

It is often right to "cover an honor with an honor", but that is only the beginning of the conversation. Opponents love it when you are predictable and "follow the rules".  They may benefit far more than your partner.

FORM

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  Thursday 03/23 Board19 Bridge Studio

There are very few absolutes in bridge.  Second hand should not always play low; third hand should not always play high.  Here you are defending 3♠ .  You lead your A , partner encouaging.  Next you play the Q because you want to hold the lead. You know what to lead next to beat 3♠ ; or do you?

Lead a third heart, giving declarer a ruff and discard.  Declarer is known to have only 4 spades. He cannot draw trump without you winning the second or third round of trump, and forcing declarer to ruff another heart in hand. Now your fourth spade is good.

Sometimes a ruff-sluff can be winning defensesmiley

FORM

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  Wednesday 03/22 Board 7 Bridge Studio

East leads A , K .  Declarer can count 11 tricks.  What's the best play for 12?

First, did you play a low spade to the J♠ and return with a club to the A♣ ? It's 4 times more likely spades are 4-1 than clubs 5-0.  After drawing trump 12 tricks are yours if either minor suit Q is doubleton or the Q is onside and you finesse.  But there is another solution that combines these chances, takes advantage of the bidding, and eliminates any possibility of a third loserDeclarer has 11 tricks in top cards. The 12th trick will come in either clubs or diamonds, as long as east hold the Q and three clubs. How likely is this?  From the bidding east is expected to hold 7 hearts and has followed to two trump.  Therefore east has only 4 minor suit cards.  Once the spades and AK♣ are played, you find out diamonds were originally 3-3, and west having pitched one diamond holds a winning club. If you finnesse and it loses you take only 10 tricks; so play west for the Q by taking the AK .  When the Q drops 12 tricks are won.

Too often declarers fail to see the squeeze potential of a long trump suitsmiley 

FORM

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  Wednesday 03/08 Board 29 Bridge Studio

South dutifully leads the 9♠ .  North's double of a freely bid 3NT calls for the lead of dummy's first bid suit. The double suggests that this line of defense will set the contract.  But, it also informs declarer of an adverse situation.  Can you use this information to make the contract? Where are your tricks coming from?

 

North has alerted declarer that spades are not going to be an easy source of tricks. Declarer would like to insure an entry to dummy by ducking a heart.  But five heart tricks are likely needed to make the contract. Which means the diamond king must be an entry and a trick for this contract to succeed.  So, win the A♠ , play a heart to the K and finesse the Q . Cash the A and lead a diamond toward the K .

FORM
  Wednesday 03/08 Board 15 Bridge Studio

West leads 10  to the A . East returns the J  . How should you play to avoid two spade losers? 

Lots of bidding choices here.  Did you open 1♣ ?  1 ?  As south what do you bid after 4 ?

Apparently east has 8 hearts AJ....  That might be all thats necessary for the 4 bid.  But with west being a passed hand, east could hold one or both spade honors. One spade goes on the Q .  Draw trump and play three rounds of clubs.  Now a trump to dummy and a fourth club, ruffed in hand. The last club is good and declarer has an exact count on East's hand 1813.  Remembering that East returned J declarer plays east for the A♠ , finessing the 10♠ .

When a defender anticipates a possible ruff by partner, their lead is often suit preference.  Declarer can take advantage of this information as wellyes

FORM

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  Wednesday 03/01 Board 13 Bridge Studio

Misplay this hand with me.  On this hand one intrepid declarer found a creative way to go down two. The K♠ was led, won by the A♠ .  A heart was led to the 10 , followed by the J♠ , on which declarer discarded a small diamond.  This trick was won by East who cashed the A .  Declarer, played low from dummy, but unblocked the K .  Next East led the 4 . Declarer put in the 10 , fearing the third round of spades would be ruffed by west preventing the club discard.  West won the J , led a club and the contract was down two....a total disasterangry.  Where did I go wrong?

Declarer created his own demise by discarding a diamond rather than a club on the J♠ .  This lead to the K unblock, and the regrettable 10 choice.  Had declarer discarded a club, the best east can do is lead A♣ and another.  Declarer wins, draws trump and plays diamonds, playing east for the A . Declarer always comes to 10 tricks avoiding a second diamond loser. 

FORM
  Monday 02/27 Board 9 Bridge Studio

Reaching a relatively safe 3♠ , declarer receives the K , and another  from west, ruffing in hand.  What should declarer lead at trick three? (Is it worth sacrificing the A dummy entry to lead up to the QJ♠ ?)

Leaving the 10 in dummy, makes it likely declarers third heart can be discarded on a long club. Leading up to QJ♠  improves the chances of losing only two trump tricks, but almost assures a heart loser when opponents win the trump lead and return a heart.

So, I lead the J♠ at trick three, making it difficult for EW to read the trump position. Maybe left hand opponent will choose to duck with Ax or Kx, and leading low the next time will hold trum losses to two tricks.  More importantly,  I'm willing to lose three trump tricks if I get my heart discard.

 

 

FORM
  Wednesday 02/22 Board 4 Bridge Studio

North leads the J♠ .  Dummy comes down.  There are 10 tricks off the top.  Hearts or clubs will generate and 11th trick, and a twelfth if you are lucky.  Plenty of chances...What's your plan to maximize chances of making six, or possibly 7NT?

Getting to slam on this hand is the easy part.  Making it...not so much.  Eleven tricks are guaranteed if declarer starts with clubs or hearts,..... maybe. With luck the same suit will produce the 12th trick.  Deciding which is a bit tricky. They way to twelve tricks through clubs is either to play AK♣ hoping to drop the Q♣ or finesse twice through south (which works), a less likely to succeed option.  The reason not to attack clubs first is that neither path to four tricks in clubs assures three club tricks. (To assure 3 tricks in clubs play to the A♣ then lead small to J9♣ , covering unless Q♣ is played from north). In hearts, a winning finesse assures 12 tricks , a losing finesse guarantees 11 tricks and preserves chances for a 12th Trick squeeze.....if only the fourth heart were in dummy.  Umm?

At the table I would start Clubs, playing AK♣ , which in this case fails, then rely on the heart finesse, which loses...down two!  So maybe A♣ and when neither Q or 10 appear play small to the J9♣ assuring 3 tricks?  Then the spade diamond squeeze executes.  Your thoughts?

 

FORM
  Friday 02/18 Board 6 Bridge Studio

This is a multiple choice question. West leads a club.  What is the best (safest, and surest way to 12 tricks in spades?

A.   Ruff opening club low. Test trump.  When west shows out, Plan to set up long diamond(s) for club discard by ducking a diamond at trick 3.

B.  WIn A♣ in hand.  Plan to draw two rounds of trump.  If they break claim.  When west shows out, plan for a cross-ruff by playing 3 rounds of hearts, the A and another diamond.

C. Ruff the opening club low, come to hand with a trump, ruff a second club low, back to hand with heart, ruff third club high. Play dummy's last trump, second heart to your hand, claim.

D. None of the above...I've got a better idea.

C. is the winner.  The only risk is a defender has 3 spades, and less than two hearts, or west started with 8 clubs.

I must confess A was my first choice.  Im a sucker for setting up long side suits.  But diamonds could be 5-1. And if the spades are different you may have to ruff two diamonds high to avoid an over-ruff.

Once the spade split is exposed, this line cant miss.

B also works, as long as you clear the hearts before the cross-ruff, but needing hearts 4-3 is riskiest of all.

 

FORM

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  Monday Evening 02/20 Board 18 Bridge Studio

North leads the Q♣. Dummy comes down, prospects are good. Perhaps 2 club losers, and a diamond, if all goes well, but.....   Whats your plan?

If you played the K♣ at trick 1, south will win the A♣ and return a club.  When north leads a third club, south pitches a heart, and the defense will get four tricks. Declarer will ruff, draw two rounds of trump and play hearts.  Because of the discard, south can ruff the third heart.  Even if declarer discards a second diamond, best, he still loses two clubs and two diamonds.

A better play is to duck the club lead at trick one.  When north continues clubs, duck again.  This way west never has an opportunity to discard a heart.  Win the diamond return from south with the A♦ , play the AK♠ , and lead hearts, discarding diamonds.  When south ruffs the fourth heart, declarer discards the last diamond (loser on loser), to hold losses to three tricks.

Note that the K♣ could have been used for a heart discard had south been the one to show out of trump.

FORM
  Monday 02/13 Board 30 Bridge Studio

You reach a really sweet 4♣ contract, outbidding NS, who appear odds on to make 3 . Down one, even two may be a good score.  But can you make 4♣ and collect all the matchpoints?

This hand is about TEMPO, or the order in which the cards are played.  There are two obvious losers, with a third coming by way of a diamond, diamond ruff, or the Q♣ .  What could go wrong?  The biggest risk is drawing too many trump before setting up the diamonds. One strategy is to play on diamonds immediately!  Say, ruff a  , lead a  .  When the 10 appears, cover and you are likely to lose only two tricks, making 5.  Sure North can rise A , 10 to K  and get a ruff, but that is it.

Alternately, ruff a  , play two rounds of trump ending in your hand, and ruff the last heart.  Now lead a diamond toward the QJ .  Assuming, south wins, win the heart return, play spade to A♠ , and another  , planning to play for split honors.

Declarers who wait until trump are drawn to start diamonds, or start ruffing spades too early will find that they run out of trump before there last diamond(s) are good.  Timing is everythingsmiley

 

FORM
  Wednesday 02/15 Board 8 Bridge Studio

The 2 is lead.  Dummy comes down and winners are counted; 2♠ ,3 ,2 ,2-4♣ , What card do you play at trick two, and why? What's your plan?

As an aside, what do you think about the lead? Fourth best leads are a staple against no trump.  Partner gets to use "the rule of eleven", and that may inform the defense.  But what about declarer? He/She can use that information as well to plan the play.

The A♣!.  The route to extra tricks in this hand is either the club finesse or the fourth ♠ , or  .  The club finesse, even if taken once can destroy the diamond position. If a diamond is played to the Ace, and the club finesse loses, a diamond is likely to come back, disrupting transportation, exposing the diamond suit, and restricting options later in the play.  So my plan is A and another ♣ . This guarantees 9 tricks and keeps options open.

And, I get luckysmiley.  The J♣ falls under the A♣ , and another club drives out the K♣ .  Now win the diamond return in dummy with the A .  At this point I can count 10 tricks,3♣ ,2 ,3 ,2♠ , and have lost one trick. I want to try to "squeeze" out one more trick, and to do that I plan to "rectify the count".  For most squeezes to work declarer must have only one potentential loser at the end of a hand.  At this point I have 2.  So, after winning the A , I'm going to lose a spade, playing low from both hands.

Assume west wins and returns a  ; win the K an play heart and club winners, ending in dummy.  Dummy now holds 9♠ , 105 ; Declarer has AK8♠ ; and poor west has Q76♠ ,Q before discarding to the last club. West is truly "squeezed" , and has to concede the 11th trick.

Guarantee the contract and keep overtrick options open...a winning combination!

FORM

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  Thursday 02/09 Board 4 Bridge Studio

North leads a trump.  In 4 declarer has 9 top tricks, a tenth to come from diamonds breaking 3-3, or perhaps clubs breaking 3-3. But can you do better?

 

Declarer is always losing 2 spades and a club on this hand. The key is not to lose the fourth diamond.  So carefully win the opening lead in hand to preserve entries to dummy.  Play A♣ and low club. When clubs break no worse than 4-2 declarer is home.  The defense takes 2 spades and continues trump; won in dummy. Ruff a club high, draw the last trump, ending in dummy, and ruff the fourth club. Declarer is out of trump but has the last 4 tricks with 3 diamons and 1 club.

Lets say clubs break 5-1 (its why declarer wins the A♣ first). Now the 10th trick must come from diamonds. But you can do better than relying on 3-3 break.  Draw exactly two rounds of trump; then play 3 rounds of diamonds. If they break 3-3 draw the last trump and you are home. If the defender with the last trump also has a fourth diamond, you will be able to ruff your 4th diamond in dummy.

FORM

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  Wednesday 02/08 Board 14 Bridge Studio

You aggressively bid to 7 .  Dummy comes down. It looks like you have choices.  Are you confident or have you overreached? Whats the best line of play?

Declarer can count 12 tricks, a thirteenth can com from a diamond finesse, club finesse, possible squeeze......or set up a club trick by ruffing!

Win the spade lead discarding a diamond. Play A♣ , 6♣ , ruffing high.  Now 2 to the 8 ; 8♣ , ruffing with the J . When both defenders follow clubs break 4-3 and the 5th club will be good.  Return to the Q and play the 10♣ , ruffing with the 10 . Now a  back to the A , and play the Q♣ discarding the second diamond.  No guesswork neededsmiley

If the clubs dont break, some guesswork may be needed. Run the rest of the hearts, saving Ax AQ♣ , opposite KJx 9♣ .  A defender with K♣ Q cannot protect them both. If neither opponent struggles with discards, play AK , planning to finesse K♣ if the J is not good.

Would your partnership be able to bid to a confident 7 ?

 

FORM
  Monday 02/06 Board 7 Bridge Studio

"Back in the day" the penalty double was used regularly to blunt the excesses of aggressive bidding styles. Opening bidders had their values, needing 2.5 defensive tricks to open.  Today players open with "any 11 count", or "rule of 20".  Its definiely a bidders game, with the competitive penalty double taking a back seat. Should we be doubling for penalty more often, and how do we know when its right?

Take this hand. You sit north , the opponents bid to 3NT uncontested.  No reason to double here.....is there?

DOUBLE!  Everything is in your favor.  You are sitting behind the  ♠ bidder.  Partners points are sitting behind east minor cards.  The game is close based on the bidding.  Finally, a double in this position usually calls for a lead of dummy,s first bid suit.  You can stand that.  As you can see, declarer is lucky to go down one.

By the way, when partner dutifully leads the 4♠ , declarer playing low, what do you play?.....

Ye olde rule of eleven 11-4=7  you see seven cards above the 4♠ , so declarer cant have one.  Play the 6♠ .

FORM
  Friday 02/03 Board 14 Bridge Studio

 East leads the 6 , A , 5, 7; Now set up dummy's long suit 2♣ ,3♣ ,K♣ ,5♣ ; 7♣ ,J♣ ,Q♣ ,A♣ .  Great so far! I'm ready to insert the 8♠ if a club is returned, but west leads J ,K ,2 ,5♠ . At this point I lost my way.  Can you do better?

 

 

A nice contract but, didnt find the right path. I lead a trump, won by west, won the diamond return, but decided to ruff a diamond at that point.  I should have realized that could never work as I have remove my only entry to the clubs.

The winning play is, after winning the Q play a second trump, west winning. west, out of diamonds is forced to cash his A♠ before exiting. You lose two trump, A♠ , and A♣ .

The moral....be patient and dont let immediate concerns cause you to lose sight of the overall plan, which was to set up and enjoy dummy's clubs.

FORM

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  Thursday 02/02 Board 23 Bridge Studio

A note on the bidding.  1♣ is a NT hand 12-14, or 18+. 2♣ asks about 4 card majors (stayman).

Do you accept the likelyhood of down one vulnerable, or take an extra chance to make the contract?  That! ......is the question.  On this hand declarer receives an apparent singleton Q lead. Wanting to minimize the risk of a ruff, declarer wins with the A , plays the A♠ , and another spade. With both the K and J behind the Q♠ , north wins, cashes the J♠ and immediately puts the J♣ on the table.  OUCHangry Do you let it ride, or rise with the A♣ planning to take the heart finesse? Why?   

What if the opening lead is the J♣ ?  Does that change your thinking?

I believe declarer should always try to make the contract rather than settle for down one, as long the chance of success is reasonable. So I rise wth A♣ , and thake the heart finesse, which loses....down two, -200, and a zero.

The decision was influenced by a number of events that occured at the table.  First, the opponents were silent through the auction.  Had north overcalled hearts, the likelyhood of the heart finesse working would be small.  Secondly, north seemed to have no difficulty leading the J♣ .  If north held the K♣ there might be more reluctance.  On the other hand north is basically endplayed, out of spades, out of diamonds, and peering at the AKJ in dummy, so a club has to be led.

What would you do?

FORM
  Wednesday 02/01 Board 1 Bridge Studio

North leads the A♠ and switches to the 8 .  The pressure is on.  What's your plan?

Most declarers received the A♠ lead, but only two of eight found the right path to 11 tricks.  After winning the A , cross to dummy with a trump.  Ruff a low spade, and return to dummy with a second trump.  Ruff a second spade dropping the K♠ . Now a trid trump to dummy, discarding two diamonds on good spades.  With the A♣ onside, declarer comes to 11 tricks, or +570, instead of -100. 

The chances of ruffing out the A♠ are less than 50%, but represent the only path to success.

Note that only a diamond lead at trick one holds this contract to nine tricks.

FORM
  Monday 01/30 Board 19 Bridge Studio. Part D Final

Back to you.  Are you sitting for the double, bidding 3NT?, 4 ?  Ehh. 

This is the final question on Board 19.  For parts A, B, and C,  go to "Bridge Hands from the Club".

If partner is doubling he must have Something more than just shape. If I pass I expect a plus score, so if I bid I'll bid a game, and I'd better make it!.  Partner is not expecting pass...but he's also not expecting 3NT!  Thats my call. South is likely to have the missing spade honors, and little else.  If holds an outside King I may have two spade stoppers.  Four hearts is a gamble as partner is unlikely to have five hearts, and they may break poorly.

The results at the table amplify the challenges in the bidding . 3♠ down 1 or 2 is a good score for NS, while EW needs to both bid and make their vulnerable game to get a top.  Often they did not succeed.

FORM

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  Monday 01/30 Board 19 Bridge Studio. Part C

The consensus auction is 3♠ ,Pass, Pass, to you. 

parts A, and B have been moved to " Bridge Hands From The Club"

Not much in high cards to force to the 4 level vulnerable.  But I believe in bidding shape, and do you ever have shape for a double here.  So I double...for takeout, hopefully😀

FORM

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  Monday 01/30 Board 19 Bridge Studio Part B

This is the hand where you have a choice of opening bids as south. Now you are sitting west, opener has bid 2♠? , or 3♠?, or even 4♠ ?.  Do you enter the auction and if so what do you bid ?

So 15 points 4333 , double, or 2NT, or pass?  If I bid 2nt, its dangerously on the low edge pointwise, but otherwise descriptive.  Double is more forgiving but I am unlikey to find 3NT when its right, and how do i evaluate partners expected 3 level suit bid.

Pass is a gamble as well. Game could easily be missed.  Im in the 2nt camp here.

If south opens 3♠ , i'm passing hoping to go plus...maybe.  Anything else carries too much risk.

Over 4♠ i will double for penalty, not needing much from partner for a set.

 

FORM
  Monday 01/30 Board 19 Bridge Studio

Departing from form, today's problem is about bidding, and will be presented in daily segments, as the bidding opportunities rotate around the table.  Sitting south you are the opening bidder.  What bid do you choose, and why?

Please feel free to share your thinking in the comment section, as it will be instructive to our bridge community.  Click on "answer" to read one point of view. 

lThis appears to be a classic 3♠ bid. At this vulnerability, some may opt for 4♠ intending to shut the opponents, as well as partner out of the auction. My choice, however is 2♠. for the following reasons. The main purpose of a preemt is to make it more difficult for the opponents to find both the correct strain and level. Their goal is to find a biddable game if available or to end up with a plus score in the part score wars.

Your bid is comparatively safe as it likely to make in cases where opponents cannot make game.  However the opponents choices often include substantial risk.  For instance. left hand opponent doubles, partner passes, right hand opponent bids 3 with 4 and 0? 6? 10? points. Now what?  Or right hand opponent with 4  and 10 points decides to respond 4 to the double, only to find partner with xx, AJx KQxx, Qxxx.

The 2♠ opener also provides partner with more flexibilty in finding the right spot when your side holds the cards.

A 3♠ opening bid exposes opener to more risk, while eliminating some of the risky choices from the opponents toolkit.

What's your view?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORM
  Friday 01/27 Board 13 Bridge Studio

Declarer received a low club lead. All found their way to ten tricks. Some ended with more. Was it luck, poor defense, or did they in fact have a better plan?

After a club lead, it makes sense to win the A♣ and play the A discarding the other club. Declarer is likely to lose one spade, and one heart if he plays on trump. However, declarer can choose to ruff a low heart with the J♠ . Now ruff a diamond and lead the K ♠.  South wins. Declarer ruffs the minor suit return and is fortunate when the 10♠ drops under the Q♠ . The chances of this line working is less than 50%, but an extra chance nonetheless.

Its interesting to note that the declarers who received a heart lead found the winning line, while those receiving a club lead did not.  A trump lead will foil the plan but never happened.

Finally note what happens if south ducks the K♠ . Declarer is now presented with a losing option, something that didn't exist after covering the K♠ . Something to think about next time.

FORM
  Thursday 01/26 Board 23 Bridge Studio

North leads a safe Q .  Eleven tricks are available. Can you find the right line of play?  Think "combining chances!

Because of the abundance of trump, ten tricks are easy. The eleventh trick, as demonstrated by the results at the table is not as obvious.  Whenever you see excess trump in both hands,  you want to consider ENDPLAY possibilities.  Specifically, how can declarer put North on lead at a point where north is forced to lead a heart, create a second club winner, or give up a ruff and discard.

Win the diamond in hand, play A♣ , and two rounds of trump ending in dummy. Now lead a small club.  Assuming south ducks, declarer ruffs, and north plays the J♣ . The plan now shifts from endplay to discarding a diamond loser on a club.  Cross to the K  and lead the Q♣ . If south covers ruff, lead small to the 7♠ , pitch a diamond  on the 10♣ and take the losing heart finesse.

If south duck the third club, pitch a diamond.  When this wins you have eleven tricks.

Its always a good idea to create extra chances, if it can be done safely.  You might just make some of your own luckwink

FORM
  Thursday 01/26 Board 12 Bridge Studio

One of the chapters in every bridge book on declarer play dicusses the inferences declarer may make from the opening lead. Some are obvious, some obscure, and most are colored by the skill set of the opening leader.  Therefore, mostly overrated.

However on this hand you receive the A♣ lead from one of the very best at the club; followed by a second club.  You just got a gift!  Whats going on? Oh, by the way how do you proceed from here?

A note on the bidding.  Always bid based on suit length not strength.  West''s who chose to disregard their lousy heart suit ended in 3NT down 1 on a club lead.

 

Could be from length, but suit was unbid.  More likely was lead choices were all quite unattractive. Specifically, no spade lead because declarers first bid suit; no trump lead because of holding likely to give up a trick (Q ); no diamond because likely to hold the K ; and no low club because he's not underleading Ace against a suit contract.  Sure enough, thats the problem.  Great insight into how the best players think about opening leads.

This revelation doesn't help declarer much as far as choices. Both the diamond and heart finesses are one way, and the spade finesse is unlikely to be taken anyway.  The winning line is to take the trump finesse, draw trump and play on spades hoping they set up by breaking 3-3 or the queen dropping doubleton. Save the expected winning diamond finesse as a last resort.  It has some risk and is less likely to set up; although in this case taking a winning diamond finesse and ruffing a small diamond does work..

FORM
  Monday 01/23 Board 2 Bridge Studio

Today's hand is a bit of a departure from the norm. The play problem is presented "double dummy", that is you try to find a line of play that makes 3NT by looking at all four hands. The solution is not obscure, but also not what most would choose at the table. West Leads J♣. Whats your plan?

Declarer has 7 top tricks.  Two more can come from diamonds if they split.  Alas.....and both the heart and spade finesse's are off.  SO....

Win the club and lead a low spade.  A crafty west will switch to a diamond, which you must duck, east winning.  A diamond continuation will generate 3 diamond tricks for declarer, so east switches back to a club, won in hand.  Now a second low spade, won by west, who leads a second diamond. Win the A  in dummy. Now a spade to the A♠ , take the fourth spade, and the third club.  At this point the four card ending looks like this:

                       N     KJ9;  7

E:   1073  ♣ 8                  W:   Q6   KQ;  or  Q65  K

                     S     A82 ♣ 5

At this point declarer has won 6 tricks.  She leads a heart to the K . If west has pitched to two hearts the heart A and J are the eighth and ninth tricks. If east retained three hearts, lead the last diamond.  East is forced to lead hearts giving up the ninth trick.

A great example of the impact of a squeeze combined with an endplay!  Does help when you see all 52 cardswink

Pleas comment below

 

 

FORM
  Wednesday 01/18/2017 Board 8 Bridge Studio

South leads K ...Look like two spade losers, one heart loser; if you are lucky! You win the A . What next.

You'd like to dray trump, hopefully losing two, and run diamonds.  But if you play on trump at trick two leads to two trump losers and two heart losers before you get started.  A better plan is to play diamonds immediately. Hopefully diamonds break 3-3 you can discard two hearts, ruff a heart and lead a trump.

Alas diamonds don't break and north ruffs with the 10♠ ; you discard your second heart. The heart return is ruffed in hand. I trouble now you must hold trump losses to one mor trick.  You lead small to KJ and.......seeing the 10♠  played suggests north has one left. Is it the Q or A? If you rise K♠  you win. It crashes the Q♠  and you will lose only two spades and a club. 

FORM

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  Monday 01/16 Board 16 Bridge Studio

It was a rough day for some of us. Sitting north, managed to play four boards out of sequence before realizing.....  Later was declarer on this hand. After a spade lead, what next? Duck it? Win and run diamonds? Win and play on hearts? Whats your plan?

My plan was to run diamonds, gathering more info. West discards  three clubs and a spade.  East a club and a spade. Dummy... encouraged by the club discards decides hold 4 clubs and discards a heart.  Now the successful club finesse, covered and won in dummy, with west discarding another spade. The fourth club is good but I cant get to it!(Solution #1: duck the club letting the king win!). Now I have to lose a heart and either club or spade. I essence I squeezed myself by running the diamonds.

A simpler, perhaps better line is to win the spade and play on hearts. Cross to A , finesse Q , losing.  Now win the spade return. Now play hearts before cashing diamonds.  When they break, discard your last spade, run diamonds and take the club finesse. Twelve tricks with a lot of good fortune.

A third interesting option is to play a club at trick two, planning to lose a club while retaining the A♣  in dummy. Creating this loser assures 2 club tricks while rectifying the count.  Now win the spade return, discard a heart , play your winning J♣ ,and run diamonds. On the 5th diamond pitch a second heart. In the four card ending declarer has KJ3 6♠ ; dummy A9 A8♣ , east 109♣  Q10 .  Cross to the A and play the A♣ . Either the 8♣ or take the heart finesse, or if east is known to hold the last club, you may have squeezed east out of protection for the Q . Your choice at trick 11.

Which line is better?  The first wins with a bit of defensive help(Easts club discard) or the heart finesse.  The second requires the club finesse and hearts breaking 3-3, or the heart finesse. The wins if the 8♣ is a winner or you can devine the heart position.  Which line did you choose?

FORM
  Thursday 01/12 Board 10 Bridge Studio

This is a hand a about technique. South leads the Q , encouraged by North and ducked by declarer.  Now a diamond to the A and a third diamond to declarer's K . What's your plan? 

You've lost two diamonds and are likely to lose a third.  Count your winners, there are eight 2♠ ,2 ,1 ,3♣ . No obvious play for a ninth trick. If you play off winners the opponents will surely get the last three tricks.

The ninth trick is there if either hearts or spades break 3-3, but you cant find out by play A,K and another. The right play is to duck either a heart or a spade to the defense. But which one? You would like to do both to  maximize your chances. But that creates too many losers. So flip a mental coin and duck a major suit in both hands. You have two chances to be right, first if the suit you picked breaks 3-3 (hearts does, spades doesnt); the second chance is that one defender has four or more cards in both majors. In this case that defender will be squeezed in the majors, unable to protect the third round of both suits. So imagine ducking a major suit to south, who cashes the fourth diamond. Declarer discards a card in the other major from both hands, as north discards a club. This effectively "rectifies the count". Now say south leads a club, declarer is ready take advantage of all his chances. After playing two more rounds of clubs dummy holds K65♠ K8 , declarer holds A7♠ A53

Make sure you pay attention to the major suit discards. An opponent with 4 cards in eack major will have been forced to discard at least two major suit cards.  And they will find it impossible to hold three cards in each major in the five card ending.  They have been "squeezed".  Unfortunately in this hand the squeeze does not work, neither defender has four cards in both majors.

What does work is leading a heart, and not a spade at trick four. Because hearts break 3-3 the thirteenth heart is your ninth trick.

FORM
  Monday 01/09 Board 12 Bridge Studio

Declarer receives the J lead. Declarer has a heart loser, at least one club loser and at least one trump loser.  Can you find a way to hold your losses to 3 tricks?

It would be great if declarer could ruff the third heart in dummy; but given the bidding, west is likey to only have two hearts, and better spade spots. Recognizing that, its time to attack trump.  It would be nice to lead up to the KQ♠ , but for that to be effective  may require two enties to dummy; entries which may be needed later to get to the diamonds should they set up. It is better to attack trump by leading the Q♠ . (Who knows, west might duck wth doubleton A♠ smiley). The plan is to lose two spades and one club, spades breaking 3-2, and either A♣ onside, or the club loser discarded on a long diamond.  East wins and returns a heart to declarers A . Now cash the K♠ and lead the third heart. You still get your heart ruff! Even if west held the third heart, he would be ruffing with a winner, while delarer discards a club ensuring only one club loser.

After the succesful ruff in dummy, play to the K , back to the A , followed by a ruff.  When diamonds break 3-3 declarer is home. Leading a club establishes an entry to dummy regardless of who hold the A♣ .  The opponents get A♠ , A♣ , and a second spade.  The plan worked.

What about setting up dummy's long suit first, a strategy that has been advocated here, and is often overlooked.  In this case it works fine, because diamonds are 3-3. But what if they aren't. Entries to setup and enjoy diamonds are not a problem if diamonds break 3-3. If they don't, declarer is exposed to an extra ruff, or trump promotion before finding out wheter the A♣ is onside. Even if declarer can manage not to lose a third trump, he may not have enough entries to enjoy the fifth diamond.  What ever small chance there is of setting up and using the fifth diamond when diamonds are 4-2 are offset by the exposure to an additional trump loser and the 50-50 chance a discard on diamonds may net be necessary regardless.

So "combining chances" trumps "setting up side suit early" in this case.

 

FORM
  Monday 01/09 Board 1 Bridge Studio

See if you can do better than I.  The 4 is lead....Your turn

whOn this hand you only get one chance!  If you didnt play the J , you are toast.  Often when faced with similar situations I reason to insert the 9 , because you are twice as likely to successfully finesse against the 10 as you are the K and Q. This isn't a similar situation! Playing the 9 or the J makes no difference in the play.  Either way the 8 offers protection when east is on lead, or when west only holds 2 hearts.

But it makes a huge difference in the outcome. When the J wins you easily come to eight tricks. When the 9 is played you are are lucky to come to 5 tricksangry 

  Wednesday 01/04 Board 36 Bridge Studio

South leads the 7♠ . Declarer is in a good place. Even without the heart finesse working there appear to be 3 spades, 4 hearts, two diamonds and 1 club; 10 tricks. Transportation may be tricky.  North wins the A♠ and returns a spade to dummy's Q♠ .

Declarer conveniently takes the heart finesse and it wins.  Now what?

If declarer chooses to believe defenders he/she may be putting the contract at risk. To retake the heart finesse delarer must lead a club to the K♣ .  Lets say that wins and a second heart is lead from dummy.  South, lying in wait, wins the heart and leads a diamond.  Now declarer is forced to win in hand and is exposed to two club losers. 

The nightmare scenario is north covers the K♣ and returns a club, forcing declarer to decide whether to finesse the J♣ long before he/she is ready

A better strategy is to give up on getting lucky in hearts, and play A  and another heart. South wins and puts declarer back in hand, probably with a diamond. Now declarer plays winners, coming to a three card ending.  Declarer has Q73♣ ,

south 10 A4♣ , dummy K10♣ A , and north J6♣ Q .  When declarer leads the 3♣ south has no answer.  Declarer will collect ten tricksWinning concedes the last two tricks, ducking allows dummy to collect the A .  If North, holds the A♣  and a club is returned, declarer will be forced to make a decision regarding the J♣ , but will have much more information, if they have been paying attention to opponents discards.

  Saturday AM 12/31 Board 11 Treadwell Sectional

You reach 6♠ after using a gadget called "kokish", which allows you to show 25+ balanced, but stay at the two level.  West leads a tricky 2 . What now?  Should you risk the diamond finesse?

To figure this out you must count your tricks; 4 spades, 3 hearts, 1 diamond, 2 clubs; 10 tricks.  The easiest path to twelve is to ruff two diamonds in your hand.  The play proceeds A , diamond ruff, club to the K♣ , a second diamond ruff.  Now draw two rounds of trump with the AJ♠ .  Lead to a high heart to  draw the last trump. Now play the A♣ . the last trump, and return to the Q . At this point declarer is on lead with 5and J♣. Dummy holds A9 .  If the Q♣  has not appeared, lead the heart. If hearts are 3-3 or the opponent with the long hearts held the Q♣  you make 7♠ .  Unfortunately only 6♠ comes home. 

An alternative line is to win the A , play two rounds of clubs, cross to the Q and ruff a club.  The plan is to set up clubs for the 13th trick. When west shows out you are in luck. Ruff the club low, ruff a diamond and ruff the 4th club.  Now play a trump honor, and overtake the second trump honor with the A♠ . The J♠ draws the last trump and you can claim seven.  You are in trouble if spades dont break, and wont make 7 when east has 2 or fewer clubs.

Which line did you choose?

  Friday 12/30 AM Board 4 Treadwell Sectional

East leads a small spade won by dummy's Ace.  Draw trump?  Cross ruff? Set up clubs?  Whats your plan?

Fortunate not to get an uncomfortable diamond lead, how does declarer still avoid the loss of two diamonds, a heart and a club? With singletons in both hands a cross ruff might work but east is likely to overruff the third or fourth round.  A better option is to set up dummy's long suit.  To do that start with the K♣ .  When west wins with the A♣ he cant effectively attack diamonds, and returns a spade, which is ruffed in dummy. Now cash the Q♣ and ruff a club in hand.  When the clubs break, thing are looking up. Now lead the Q . If east covers, win the A . Now forced to lead a heart to the J , you are fortunate west must play the 10 .  A heart to the nine draws the last trump and the clubs are good for 10 tricks...

But east, seeing his losing position shouldn't cover, giving declarer a choice, and a losing option.  But declarer should realize that east would have covered had he held the K10x. So he should next lead the J , hoping west holds 10x.  Right again.   A job well done.

  Monday 12/19 Board 6 Bridge Studio

The common contract was 4 by west. North leads the 7♦.  The good news is declarer has a free finesse.  The bad news is it's likely a singleton.  As dummy comes down it's apparent entries to dummy are a problem. There seem to be only two and using either one is likely to cost a trick. What's your plan?

Declarer has many options, all with plusses and minusses.  An agressive approach is to win the opening lead in dummy and take a spade finesse.  Declarer hopes to create another entry to dummy via a spade ruff to take the heart finesse. The problem with this line is that even if both finesses work it may still not be enough. The diamond ruff potential has not been averted; their may be a fourth round spade overruff; and their may be a fourth round diamond loser.

It is better to maintain flexibility on this hand. The plan is to hold the losses to two hearts and a spade;  Win the opening lead in your hand with 10 . Lead the J . North will most likely duck, with south winning A . South most likely return is a diamond for a ruff.  In that case north does best to kill and entry with a club lead.  But declarer can now draw trump with the K ; play A , J to the K ,ruff a diamond high and lead a low heart to dummy. Now pitch two spades on a diamond and a club and take the spade finesse 11 tricks.

If south chooses to return a spade, take the finesse. When it win you are home.  Should it lose north can't ever get a diamond ruff and declarer comes to 10 tricks.

One defense is for north to win the Q  at trick two, and return a club. Declarer wins and play a second heart. South wins A and plays a spade. Now declarer should rise with A♠ , insuring no diamond ruff,  draw the last trump and play the Q♠ .  The diamond ruff is avoided and declarer can pitch the fourth spade on the A♣. 

Another option, although unlikey is for north to win the Q and return a heart.  North wins A and gives south a diamond ruff. South now play a club to declarers K♣ . The defense now has three tricks.  But declarer can now cash the A , play a small heart to dummy and throw three spades on two diamonds and the A♣ .

A very interesting hand!

  Wednesday 12/14 Board 18 Bridge Studio

Not our lucky day.  We arrive in 3NT in the west, while most pairs are playing 3NT in the east.  (The unusual bidding is a "stayman" auction)

North leads 4 ; 2, Q ,7.  South returns 10 ; 8; 3; K .  North has played 4 then 3 ; so south may be out.  How do you play to minimize the chance of north getting in and running the hearts?

If south holds the K you can probably navigate to  nine tricks 1 ,2 ,2♣ 3♠ , with a ninth trick coming from the 13th diamond, 13th spade, or even a club via a squeeze. 

It is better however to lead the Q thru north.  This wins as long as north doesn't hold both king and jack of diamonds. When north covers win and concede a diamond to south. You now come to 10 tricks.

It is worth noting that with Q10xx opposite A98 leading the Q first, and leading the A first have essentially the same chance of success. The choice you make should be decided by other play considerations.

  Monday 12/12 Board 14 - Bridge Studio

Three NT is the better contract, but Norths questionable overcall made it more challenging.  Perhaps east should pass over 2♣.  If south passes, west might bid 3♣ , and east bids 3NT....but what if south raises to 3♣?

Most declarers were down in 4♥.  Can you do better?  North leads J .  South probably holds the K so playing the Q at trick 1 is a mistake.  You win the A in hand and lead Q♣ , hoping south holds the A♣ .  Alas, north wins, and leads 5♦ . .......?

You duck, hoping the K pops, it doesn't.  South wins and plays the  K .  But that is all the defense gets. You can finesse the J  and still have the A♠  entry to discard spades on the K♣ and thirteenth  .

  Friday 12/2 Board 12 Bridge Studio

A belated entry by a well known colleague from the south, Andy Stayton.  A wise bridge player I know told me that he rarely if ever passed  takeout double. " Partner is asking me to bid, so I'm bidding." One pair did not heed this advice.  The result was -470 and zero matchpoints.

South's 4♣ bid showed a very big hand, likely in support of diamonds.  When north jumped to 5, he showed something extra.  That was enough for south to confidently bid 6♠. 

This would not be much of a problem were it imps, but at matchpoints every trick counts. West leads A♣ .  What is your plan?

 

For most declarers , running twelve tricks, and hoping diamonds broke 3-3, or a careless diamond discard would beget the thirteenth was the strategy of choice. Perhaps they were still regretting not bidding six and didn't give the play much thought.

Win the opening lead in hand and play A♠ . When both defenders follow declarer is able to draw the last trump with the10♠ spades in dummy.  But first play K , diamond to the A , and ruff a diamond high. Now as long diamonds were no worse than 4-2, cross to the 10♠ . And the diamonds will provide the 13th trick.

Should you carelessly draw Two rounds of trump before this line occurs to you don't give up. Any time you have all but one trick in winners there are often squeeze possibilities.  This is one that occurs naturally but is difficult to recognize. Once you have run all the spades declarer holds  A76    K10 ; dummy  J   AQ76.

East must reduce to five cards, but 4 must be diamonds or all the diamonds are good. So east USA discard all but one heart.  If declarer watches the spot cards carefully they will realize  7 is the thirteenth trick. 

Had any of the four spade bidders made 7, they would have been next to top on the board!

  Monday 12/12 Board 1 -Bridge Studio

West lands in 4 hearts after a try at 3NT. There are always 9 tricks so 3NT is the safer game, but is it a better bet for 10 tricks?  Anyway....

North leads the 7 .  It appears there are four potential losers, a club, diamond and 2 spades.  A successful spade finesse is a tenth trick.  Can you improve your chances?

This is an excellent example of a basic endplay situation, that all declares should recognize.  After drawing trump, lead a diamond from your hand.  South will win and return either a spade or a diamond.  Assume a diamond is returned, continue diamonds winning the last diamond with the king in dummy. Now you have two endplay choices. Declarer can play A,K, and another club, hoping north is forced to win. Now two spades and 10 tricks are guaranteed.  

But plan B may be better.  Take the spade finesse. When it loses win the spade return and play a third spade. The defense must now lead a club, and you make the winning decision when you play for split honors.

I like plan B better at matchpoints. If the spade finesse is on declarer now has an odds on chance for 11 tricks and all the matchpoints!

  Friday 12/02 Board 20 Bridge Studio

Uggh! Here I am preaching you've got to take all your chances, and I blew it!  I received a low diamond lead and ruffed in dummy. Now it looks like spades need to break 2-2 to make the contract.  So I played small from dummy, and it didn't work well. Is there a better play?

It's hard to envision an arrangement of spades that would allow 5spades to make if spades aren't 2-2. But sure enough this is it.  Your extra chance comes from leading a heart to your hand and a trump toward the Q♠ .  East must rise, smothering the J♠ .  Now the Q♠ can drive out the A♠ . 

But, don't forget to cash the AK♣ first, pitching your last diamond.  Otherwise east can win the first spade and lead a second diamond, forcing declarer to ruff with the Q♠ .

Its possible this line looses to a 2-2 trump break when west has doubleton AK♠ , wins and returns a heart for partner to ruff.  That is less likely and my poor excuse for lazy thinking.  

  Thursday 12/01 Board 7 Bridge Studio

OK OK, The bidding is suspect. Most EW pairs are in 4  making 4 or 5.  Four spades doubled is probably +800, and 5 is suspect.  But here you are.

North leads a small spade to the A♠ . South returns a trump, won in hand.  How do you proceed, needing to make 5 ?

This problem perfectly illustrates the choice of ruffling losers in the hand with short trump, or preserving the entry to take advantage of the long side suit.

If you choose to ruff spades twice in dummy, you can only come to 10 tricks. 5 , 2 ruffs, 2 clubs, and 1 .  After riffing the second spade you must either play the K or come to your hand with a club. Either way you will get only 1 diamond trick.

The better choice is to immediately lead a  at trick three.  Most norths will rise A fearing a singleton. Now the diamonds are all good and you have 4 discards, for 11 tricks.  Only a K♠ lead at trick 1 defeats 5 .

At the table declarer suggested partner pass allowing declarer to dbl(correct). Partner chose to bid because of the offensive value of the  Suit(correct).  Had declarer been more respectful of partners reasoning their score would have improved from 0 to average +. And the moral is....

 

 

  Thursday 01/05 Board 20 Bridge Studio

West's opening lead is the Q♣ , which couldn't be worse. The chances of west holding the A♣ are slim, but what choice do you have? If you duck west continues with the J♣ .  Do you duck again?

East wins and returns a diamond. You play the A . Now What? 

In this case declarer should duck both club leads.  There is nothing to be gained by covering, unless west holds the A♣ , which is very unlikely.  Declarer is rewarded when east must play the A♣ at trick two.

After winning the A there are choices. You should attack trump, but how? You know east is ready to trump a third club, and will have that opportunity if you lose a spade finesse. You make 3♠ if you go to the A♠ and finesse the Q♠ . But should you take that risk. A better strategy is to play the A♠ , K♠ , and lead a heart.  If the Q♠ appears you make three, otherwise you are assured of making your contract.

 

  Monday 11/28 Board 12 Bridge Studio

You bid aggressively to 4 hearts upgrading the north hand after finding the heart fit. Three hearts, even 3 nt are reasonable alternative contracts. Most pairs got to 4 hearts, but few were successful. A spade lead pretty much ends your chances, but no one in 4 hearts got that lead. Most received the 10♣.

It appears, even with a 3-2 trump break, you stand to lose 2 hearts, one diamond and a spade. Can you do better?

 

There are a couple of choices. With a 3-2 heart break you should have 2 heart tricks, 1 diamond, one spade, a diamond ruff, and 5 club tricks, if all can be accomplished before losing a spade. For this to work you need the person with the third trump to hold 4+ clubs, so that after the opponents win a heart, and lead a spade, you are able to discard all your spades on clubs.  The chances of this working are less than 50%, roughly 25-30%.

Alternately, you can win the first club, and immediately finesse the J . Not easy to visualize, but if this draws the A you are home. The opponents return a spade, you win in hand, throw two losing spades on the KQ , play A and second  .  Whether opponents cash their last trump or return a spade you run clubs for 10 tricks. This choice works about 50% of the time.

It is hard to combine these chances as the diamond finesse must be taken immediately and the club play is only effective after playing two rounds of trump.

BUT they both work! Are you surprised these winning options were not found at the table?

 

 

  Monday 11/21 Board 9 Bridge Studio

You risk 3NT hoping your diamonds hold up, and get the K lead, of course. East plays a discouraging 2 .  What next? If you win with the A do you risk the spade finesse? Probably not, but then you count only 8 tricks 4♣ 2♠ 1 1 . So you duck.  West heeds partners advice and switches to the K .  Now plan your play....

 

Not wanting to expose yourself to a heart lead through your J , you duck again.  West fearing giving you a trick in the red suits, switches to a low spade.  You call for the 10♠ from dummy and it wins. It looks like the spade finesse may be on and you still have the A in dummy. 

So, attack the clubs. I would lead the 9♣ first. This retains the K♣ as an entry should the club finesse lose and west chooses to play the K taking the A off the board. When west shows out play the K♣ from dummy and another club. On the play of the fourth club, west's hand comes unraveled. 

Your hand is ♠ 5  J9  AJ ♣ J .  Dummy is ♠ AKJ6  A5 .  West, who by this point must have the Q♠, or would have pitched multiple spades by now, has to hold 4 spades, or all your spades are good and you have the last 6 tricks. When he keeps all four spades his hand is now ♠ Q987  Q  Q.  So next you play A . If the Q   falls you next play the J pitching a spade and heart. The spade finesse gives you the rest.  

If the Q does not appear west can have at most 3 spades, so pitch a heart from dummy and take the spade finesse. Dummy will be up.

The key is being patient at tricks 1 and 2, keeping all your chances in play!

  Friday 11/18 Board 1 Bridge Studio

The 7 is lead.  North wins the A and returns a  .  What next?

Supporting our theme of combining chances, this hand is a good example of taking advantage of all your options.  Spades might come home, the club finesse might work, you could get lucky in hearts.  But you also might want to be careful at trick one. Thinking ahead you see that you would prefer to lead up to the KQ , and you would like to win the first trump with the K♠ so you can take the restricted choice finesse if north plays the Q or J♠ on the first spade trick.  It's hard to do both if you win the second diamond in dummy.

So, go up with the K , winning the diamond return with the Q . Next lead the 2 . If South plays the A you can pitch two clubs on the KQ and avoid the club finesse.  No such luck.  North is now stuck with a tuff lead.  A spade return luckily gives up nothing. You should win the spade in dummy and ruff a small heart before playing the K♠ . When spades don't cooperate lead a third. South wins and returns a Diamond which you ruff.

Now play to the A♣ , next playing Q discarding a club.  When the J falls you are rewarded for you foresight.  The 9 is now good, and you can discard a second club.  You have taken advantage of all your chances to avoid a losing club finesse, and make your contract.

  Thursday 11/17 Board 2 Bridge Studio

You reach 5 after deciding 3NT is a poor bet because of shortness in both majors.  Turns out 3NT is the matchpoint winner.  Declarer receives the 4 lead, fortunate not to be put to the spade guess at trick one.  How should declarer proceed?

You don't want to rely on the spade finesse if you can avoid it.  There may be a slight inference that south holds the A♠  because he led from a   honor rather than a ♠ . But declarer has a better option.  After drawing trump, declarer should lead a small ♣ from his hand. When south plays low declarer covers in dummy forcing north to win.  Now the defense can never get 2 page tricks. If north doesn't play a spade at this point declarer will make 6.

South does better to play the J♣ forcing declarer to play the K♣ from dummy.  Now declarer plays a small ♣ from dummy.  If noth plays the Q♣ declarer ducks. If noth plays small declarer wins the A♣ and leads hi last club hoping north started with 3.

  Wednesday 11/16 Board 31 Bridge Studio

After the 6 lead your chances look pretty good. You might find the Q♠ , diamonds might break, opponents might help, and could there be a squeeze?

how do you combine your chances?

This is a difficult problem, because even if you visualize all the possibilities, it is almost impossible to determine which combination leads to the highest probability of success.  It is a great problem in combining chances however. 

First tackle the spade suit.  It is slightly more likely spades split 2-2 than taking a successful finesse, but this choice influences other options should it not work. So win the heart ❤️ lead with the Q, and play the A♠ and a ♠ to the K♠ . When the Q♠ doesn't drop play K , A , K , A , pitching a club. Now play a third  to the Q.  If they split your home.  When they don't, lead a spade, forcing east lead a club or give a ruff and discard. That doesn't work either, as west holds K♣ . So, down 1. Chances of success 52%(2-2♠ )+20%(3-3 , .48x.40)+14%(Q♠ &K♣ in same hand, .28x50)= 86%. Rather than endplaying east, declarer could squeeze west for the 12th trick.(see below). If the Q♠ does drop, the squeeze will lead to the 13th trick.

Another approach.  Let's say you are a deep thinker and visualize the squeeze possibilities at trick 1. You also see that a defender may help you out even if you lose the spade finesse.  This is how you might proceed.  Win the  lead in dummy and plan to finesse the Q♠ . Before you do however play off the hearts. K , ♠ to the A♠ , A . Now finesse the Q♠ .  When this works, draw trump play the A♣ and the rest of your spades. At this point you hold  K94 ♣ Q, dummy  AQ53. West cannot hang onto 4 diamonds and the ♣ K, so you make 7.

If your finesse loses either the defender held 3 and returns a trump ( in which case diamonds breaking or the squeeze makes six), or the defender is out of spades and must lead a club or diamond, in which case might give you the 12th trick.  If not you still have diamonds breaking or the squeeze.

Chances of success 50%(finesse)+5%(estimate defender making helpful lead after winning ♠ Q)+18%(3-3 .40x .45)+13%(squeeze .50x.26)= 86%.

What took you so long?😉😉😉

By the way if you happen to be in 6NT, whether you find the Q♠ or not, the contract is a likely make because declarer is forced to rely on the K♣ / diamond squeeze.  The squeeze happens even if declarer is unaware as long as declarer plays off spades and heart winners first.

 

 

  Monday 11/14 Board 18 Bridge Studio

 An aggressive auction lands East in a challenging 3NT.  The opening lead is 6♠ , followed small 10, Q.  You now can count a likely 8 tricks, 6 diamonds, one spade, and one club.  How do you play for a ninth trick? The club finesse might work, but is it likely?

Remember the auction. South bid two suits, one of them clubs, and neither of them diamonds. The club finesse is unlikely to succeed.  Often in situations like this, it is right to run your long suit, hoping something good happens.  But be careful.  If diamonds are 3-0, they are likely with north, so play to the K . You are rewarded when south shows out. Finesse the Q and run the suit. 

With six cards remaining your hand is ♠ 95  K   ♣ AJ3.  South pitches to ♠ AK8  A   ♣ K10.  The west and north hands are mostly immaterial.  Now a lead of a heart or spade end plays west.  West can take 4 tricks but must lead a club to the AJ.

Dont mistakenly leave a singleton Q♣ On dummy. (I did that).😂 Now south can play the 10♣ and escape.  Also south can defeat the contract but retaining a second heart, pitching a good spade. This is difficult to visualize at the table.

  Friday 11/11 Board 1 Bridge Studio

What do you think of north south bidding? And east west not doubling?

At trick one west leads a small trump, everyone following.   How do you proceed?

It's a bidders game these days.  If south doesn't open, north/south never get in the auction. If west doesn't overcall 3 east/west may never get in the auction.  East/west did well not to double.

Its tempting to ruff a  before drawing trump.  If you win the trump lead and lead a small  to set up a ruff, east may win and lead the K♣ . You have four losers before you get started. Win the trump lead in hand and play the 9 finessing the K .  Now draw a second round of trump with the A♠.   Repeat the diamond finesse.  At this point the contract is made when diamonds split 3-3. Five spades and five diamonds.

To defeat the contract west must underlead the A♣ at trick one or at trick 2 after leading the A .

  Friday 11/4 Board 27 Bridge Studio

This is board 27 from the pairs game at the Bridge Studio Friday afternoon.  East leads the Ace of hearts, everyone following.

Next East leads the 6 ♠ . How do you proceed?

What if East leads a second heart at trick two?

The key to this hand is finding the Q♣ . Most players would play for the clubs to break 2-2 without additional information.

In this case however, East is known to hold at least 6, probably 7As a result west is more likely to hold 3 or 4♣.

So win the ♠, lead the A♣  and another club, planning to finesse the Q.

If East plays a second at trick two, you need to be concerned that west is out of hearts.  You need to double your bet that west is long clubs, and trump with the Ace.

When west shows out of hearts,  you will be in position to finesse west for the Q♣