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Rusty
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We're not playing much these days - getting old and cutting back.  We haven't played in anything but local events for months. 

Last week, a friend called us up, needing a fill-in pair at a Connecticut Regional, and we were drafted.  So, off we went, ready to dazzle everyone with our diamonds and rust - mostly rust, I'm afraid.

Here are three problems we faced, and botched.  See if you can do better (hint:  you can't do worse).

1.

West
North
J93
87
732
AK1098
East
South
K1085
AK2
QJ85
Q2
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
5
2
0
1
6
Q
9
2
3
1
1
2

West leads a fourth-best 4 to East's ace.  Back comes the 6, and your queen wins the trick (9 from West).  Plan the play.

2.

West
North
Q6543
865
K103
K2
East
South
AK8
KJ109
AQ5
983
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
6
3
0
0
1
J
K
A
8
2
0
2
9
3

 

West leads the club queen.  Well, that's not good!  You play low from dummy.  West continues with the club jack, and dummy's king loses to the ace.  Back comes the 9.  Plan the play.  

3.

West
North
QJ6
10963
A
AK1064
East
A1043
875
853
Q92
South
W
N
E
S
3
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
3
7
1
1
0
Q
3
2
7
1
2
0
3
5
J
Q
0
2
1
8
A
2
3
1
3
1
6
7
A
4
3
4
1
J
Q
6
5
1
5
1
J
7

Partner leads the diamond king, won on the table.  Next comes the spade queen, which you let hold.  Then a heart is led to the jack and partner's queen.  

Partner shifts to the 8, taken by dummy's ace.  Heart to the ace (4 from partner), diamond jack, covered and ruffed, and finally another trump.

Do you win or not?

Either way, partner will discard the 2 on this trump.  What is your plan?

For 1:

West
North
J93
87
732
AK1098
East
South
K1085
AK2
QJ85
Q2
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
5
2
0
1
6
Q
9
2
3
1
1
2

Spades appear to be 5-1, and diamonds 1-5.  If that is correct, the contract is assured.  Simply lead the 2 to the ten.  Then:

 

If it wins, club back to the queen, and force a spade entry.  You'll take at least nine tricks.

If the club finesse loses, the best East can do is play a heart.  Win, overtake the club queen and run clubs, pitching a heart and two diamonds, then lose a spade finesse to West.  You are home unless West can produce a surprise diamond.  

For 2:

West
North
Q6543
865
K103
K2
East
South
AK8
KJ109
AQ5
983
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
6
3
0
0
1
J
K
A
8
2
0
2
9
3

the contract is in no danger if spades split, so assume otherwise.  Who is likely to hold long spades?

Well, we know that clubs are 6-2, and hearts are certainly 1-5 or 0-6.  So we know six or seven cards on our left, seven or eight cards on our right.  That means that West is slightly more likely to hold long spades, rather than East.  Not much to go on there.

How can we come to nine tricks if spades don't split

If East holds the long spades, we can establish four spade winners.  Add that to our three diamond tricks, and we will need two hearts for our contract.  That requires three dummy entries - two to lead hearts, and one to establish and run spades.  We have only two.

If West holds the spades, we can never take more than three spades, and we'll need three heart tricks for game.  Seems like we need three dummy entries then, too. 

In fact, if it is East with the four spades, we won't need an extra entry - East will come to our rescue.  If East has four spades, along with five or six hearts, East can't hold more than two diamonds.  So, we could simply win two diamond tricks in hand, then set up spades.  In on the fourth spade, East will have to play a heart for us, solving that entry problem.

Still, if East has the diamond jack, we can get an immediate entry by playing low from hand.  That diamond nine doesn't look like a switch from the jack, but, it is not that unusual to lead the nine from a holding like J98x(x).  

This one is not as clear as the first problem, but, it seems best to trust the diamond nine.  Why should East give you a free dummy entry holding only one spade?  So, you should win the diamond in hand, and test spades.

Be sure to win with the diamond ace, not the queen.  If West turns up with four spades, you can still hope that East started with a hand like x AQxxx 98xxx Ax.  In that case, the diamond jack will come up on the second round, giving you a third dummy entry, so long as you lead the queen on the second round.  

East was, in fact, 4-5-2-2, but I played low from hand, and could no longer make the contract.

What do you think of North's bidding?

Seems about right to me.  Those three small hearts are a danger sign, and a 5-3 spade fit might not fare too well.  Searching for four-card support, but not three, is good judgment.  Indeed, South played in 4, after a transfer auction, at the other table.  Heart to the ace, heart ruff, club queen, meant a quick two down, so I won 2 IMPs for my sloppy play. 

Problem 3: 

West
North
QJ6
10963
A
AK1064
East
A1043
875
853
Q92
South
W
N
E
S
3
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
3
7
1
1
0
Q
3
2
7
1
2
0
3
5
J
Q
0
2
1
8
A
2
3
1
3
1
6
7
A
4
3
4
1
J
Q
6
5
1
5
1
J
7

Partner won't always deliver a seven-card diamond suit for a first-seat preempt, but that is likely.  The 8 shift looks like shortness, but partner would have led a club on the go with a stiff, so you can tentatively place South with two diamonds and three clubs.  If South were 4-4 in the majors, South would not insist on spades, so South must be 5-3-2-3.  A likely hand for South:

South
K9852
AKJ
J7
J73

We have a heart winner in, and will take a second trump trick.  That's three, and our club queen is well-placed, yes?  Unfortunately, South's losing club will go on dummy's 10.  If South holds this hand, there is no defense.

We have to knock out dummy's club entry before South untangles the hearts - so, there is only one hope.  We need partner to have shifted to the 8 from J8 doubleton.  Nothing else will do.  We must win this spade and return the 9.

The full hand:

West
7
Q42
KQ109642
J8
North
QJ6
10963
A
AK1064
East
A1043
875
853
Q92
South
K9852
AKJ
J7
753
W
N
E
S
3
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
3
7
1
1
0
Q
3
2
7
1
2
0
3
5
J
Q
0
2
1
8
A
2
3
1
3
1
6
7
A
4
3
4
1
J
Q
6
5
1
5
1
J
7

What do you think of declarer's line of play?

Horrendous.  There was absolutely nothing to be gained by that heart finesse.  At the other table, the auction and the play started out identically, but our team-mate led a heart to the ace, ruffed the diamond jack, and played the spade jack.  Ten tricks were now easy. 

What do you think of West's defense?

Equally deplorable!  Sure, the club shift was decent, but, that heart discard?  Had East found the club nine back, declarer might well let me (yes, I was West) hold the club jack.  Then what?  Down to nothing but diamonds, I'd have to shorten declarer's trumps, which would lead to a baby trump coup.  

I had to keep my heart exit.  Throwing that was, how shall I put this?  Rusty. 

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