Jeff Lehman

Defensive insurance

Partner Saul Agranoff of Newton, MA, playing North, made a careful defensive play in the end game of Board 3 at yesterday’s club duplicate.



West opened 2NT (20-21) in second chair.  With NS silent, the opponents conducted a puppet Stayman auction of 3♣-3NT (no four or five card major).  

Saul led the Q and I played a UDCA 8 as declarer won with the K.  Declarer next played A and a small heart, ducked by Saul and won with dummy’s queen.  Playing reverse Smith, I played 8/4, discouraging to diamonds.  Declarer played a club from dummy to his A and K, my following.  Next came the A and three more rounds of clubs.  I pitched a diamond, 3, and then 5.  Saul pitched 2, T, and T.  In this four card end position — declarer having won five clubs, two diamonds, and two hearts –, declarer called for the J and Saul won his king, as I followed suit:



What to play now by Saul?

Well, a check on the signaling by me (my low spade should promise the A [or K if Saul had not owned that card himself]) and a check on the HCP (declarer has already shown up with 18 HCP in aces and kings in the nonspade suits) suggests that I own the A and thus we have the three remaining tricks in the form of two spades and the J.  What can go wrong?

Carefully, Saul considered what to play if the checks above were wrong: what if I had signaled with the Q (instead of A) and declarer’s last three cards were the tenth trick of A (instead of Q) and the 9x? In that case, cashing the J and then playing a spade would present declarer with an eleventh trick in the form of the 9.  Saul insured against that holding by leading a small spade without cashing the J; that way, declarer could win his hypothetical A and then Saul could claim the last two tricks with his K and J, holding declarer to ten tricks.

As it turns out, my hand did hold the A as both my signaling and declarer’s opening bid were as expected.  No reasonable defense would allow declarer to win more than the nine tricks he had already taken.  But Saul’s careful defense was, nonetheless, noteworthy.


David Memphis MOJO SmithAugust 24th, 2013 at 12:32 am

“puppet Stayman auction of 3♣-3♦ (no four or five card major)”

I don’t play puppet — how do you show a four-card major?

Jeff LehmanAugust 24th, 2013 at 1:02 am

My apologies to David MOJO and others. I had misstated the auction bids following the 3C puppet Stayman call. Opener denied having a four or five card major by rebidding 3NT and not by rebidding 3D.

I have since corrected the text. Thanks for catching this.

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