Jeff Lehman

Is the fear reasonable?

On Board 28 of a matchpoint club game, EW bid briskly to 4 via a 2 opening and a raise to game.


Dealer: W #28
Vul: NS



The opening lead was a small heart to the ace followed by a small heart back to the K and Q.  Trick 3 was a club to the king and ace.  Declarer soon drew trumps and claimed contract by virtue of six spades, one heart ruff in dummy, the A and two clubs.

Obviously the defense needs to switch to a diamond before the A is dislodged.

Is there a clear fault?

Yes, I think; the blame is with North.

Each defender feared that declarer could take eleven pointed suit tricks if the club ace were not cashed quickly.  While South’s fear was legitimate, I do not think the same could be said of North’s fear.  North should have played a diamond at Trick 3.

From the perspective of South, declarer might own KJx or Kxxx of diamonds and a diamond return would allow declarer to run the diamond suit to put to bed the A (if declarer held no more than two clubs in the first situation or no more than one club in the second situation).  But from the perspective of North, the only holding of declarer that would allow declarer to take five diamond tricks was QJx … and if that were declarer’s holding, then declarer would have insufficient entries to both run the diamonds and draw trumps: declarer could win a Trick 3 diamond return in hand, but must then draw trumps ending in hand to avoid suffering a ruff by South; when a second diamond from declarer is covered by North, dummy can win … but North maintains a holding that requires yet another finesse and there is no quick entry to West to take that finesse.  (Of course, if declarer held QJxx of diamonds, a diamond return would be ruffed by South.)


Richard KendallJanuary 11th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

South might have helped his partner just a little more by returning the heart ten instead of a count card. The visible doubleton heart Q in dummy makes any count card by South immaterial, and implies he is ready for the obvious (?) shift. So, I go for 90/10.
The count card by South was reflexive and probably South regretted it as soon as it was played. Clearly understandable this late in the round?

Ted BartunekJanuary 11th, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I think South is right to show count on the return. It clarifies that declarer holds 4 cards in the minors. If West has the DQ he is always making the hand, so it can’t hurt to hope partner holds it and make the shift. (If South had a diamond void, he should have cashed the CA before returning the heart.)

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