Recap Of 6/15/2016 28 Board IMP Individual
Lots of swings on Wednesday, but only 4 that cleared the hurdle of double digit swings for including in the blog. All four swings were 11 IMPs (and, for once, all in my favor!).
When my teammates stopped in game, 3 non-vulnerable slams of varying soundness were reached, all failing. One slam (less than 50% to begin with), could have been made, but declarer didn’t find the winning line. Another would have been 90+% in the right strain, but NT didn’t fare so well. The 3rd slam was way less than 50%. The other swing was a red game.
Well, the swing on this one was all in the bidding. East has an easy obvious 1♠ opening bid. South can choose to enter the auction or not. One did, one didn’t. At my table, when partner ventured forth with 2♦ and then rebid 3♦, I felt compelled to try the red game. +150 when vulnerable is always disappointing. East recognized that this was not the time for ‘fourth from longest and strongest’. With clubs our weak suit, the ♣K opening lead would have given me pause, but when the ♣K is ducked and East cannot continue, there is no problem for declarer. On the actual ♥J lead (sneak attack in an unbid side suit), I played the ♥Q and then played diamonds from the top. On the run of diamonds, East is forced to eventually allow me to score my ♠10 for 11 tricks (2+2+6+1). No lead can beat 3NT, but the ♠K would have likely given me the biggest problem, knocking out my easy/sure entry to diamond tricks. When the 1♠ contract failed by 3 tricks, our teammates were -150 to go with our +660 for 11 IMPs.
I don’t think the bidding receives any style points. Yet, East had a suitable fitting minimum and it turns out a makable slam was reached. When Mark led his singleton ♣Q, Mike took a considerable amount of time considering his continuation – how to tackle the hand after winning in dummy? He must lose the ♥A, so he cannot lose any other trick. But, as long as trump are 3-2, it appears he is looking at 12 pretty certain tricks. 2+4+2+4 Play 2 rounds of spades, pitching his club, to avoid the threat of the pending club ruff, draw trump and claim, ruffing a club high if his RHO rises with the ♥A when hearts are led.
But, appearances can be deceiving. Assuming trumps split 3-2, WHO has 3, who has 2? Missing the ♥1098 makes a bit of a problem. If North ducks the ♥A when trumps are first led from dummy, declarer must win and continue hearts. Declarer must assume that RHO held exactly ♥A8 doubleton and not play the ♥J on the second lead of trumps (letting the ace catch air). If he does play the ♥J, “forcing” the ♥A, a club continuation promotes South’s trump to the setting trick.
Of course, if RHO had held ♥A98, then declarer actually has no play/guess when he leads towards the ♥J. Since declarer’s black cards are gone, the ♥J is the only possible entry to the club winners. Declarer can play the ♥J on the second lead of hearts to force the ♥A (so he doesn’t lose to the lowly ♥9), and that will handle heart losers, but all RHO needs to do, in that case, is win the heart and return a heart. Dummy is dead and declarer is left with 2-3 diamond losers. If RHO errs (when holding ♥A98) and returns a club for partner to ruff, knowing partner doesn’t have a trump left, dummy’s clubs are revived and the slam comes home!
All of this guessing (who has 3, who has 2) eventually led declarer to decide to hope that LHO held the ♥A or that the ♣Q was not a singleton. That hope didn’t happen as I rose with the ♥A and gave partner a club ruff for -1.
I think there is limited downside to cashing the ♠AK (pitching the club) prior to leading trump. If, as you hoped, LHO holds the ♥A, pretty much the only damaging return after LHO wins the ♥A would be a spade uppercut (if LHO held 6 spades, RHO 2, which they did). That is, on a different layout, if South had held ♥A109 and I (North) held ♥85, when South wins the ♥A on the first trump lead, a spade continuation allows me to ruff with my ♥8, forcing the other high trump from declarer and turning the remaining ♥109 in the South hand into a power trump trick (with only the ♥J7 remaining in dummy opposite ♥432 to draw trump).
Perhaps this ‘what if?’ has gone on too long, but there is one more interesting way to beat the hand if declarer does lead spades at tricks two and three, taking the club discard. If LHO (South) had held ♥A109, rather than go for the trump promotion, South could simply duck hearts twice. If South thinks declarer will not play the ♥J on the second trump lead (‘needing’ the ♥A to be doubleton with North), by ducking the second time, South can win that trick and still have the ♥A for the setting trick.
When the ♣Q made its appearance at trick 1, it gave me the impression that an excellent slam was reached because your problem of how to find 4 club tricks is immediately solved. The comments above show that all problems are not solved. Spots matter. Here, if East-West held all of the heart spots, it would have taken very foul distribution (4-1 trumps or some unlikely ruff at trick 1 due to a void in the North hand) to defeat the slam. It is too hard for me to figure out, given the actual 2 hands, what is the best line of play and the % of success for that line. But, without the ♣Q lead, this slam requires things too friendly and too many guesses for the slam to reach the desired 50+% likelihood of success.
Since our teammates did not bid slam, we scored +50 and +450 for 11 IMPs. Lucky declarer didn’t guess the line of play to make it, but at the end of the day, glad our teammates did not bid it.
As you can see, again, bidding is the difference. With the opponents passing and the first 6 bids identical at both tables, I decided I had nothing extra and passed. Mike decided he had the right cards and ventured into the diamond slam.
Even if diamonds are 3-3, there are still spade/heart losers that must be dealt with, but the power of the club suit deals with both of those losers quite nicely. Or the ♦J10 could have been doubleton. When there was a diamond to lose and the ♣Q was offside, no miracle occurred and the slam failed. Certainly not the worst slam ever bid, but not a contract you want to be in looking at both hands.
Meanwhile, in 3NT, I ducked the spade lead, winning the ♠J. After cashing the ♦K, I crossed to the ♥A and played diamonds. Upon winning the 4th round of diamonds, they cashed the ♥K and the rest were mine. +460 and +50 for 11 IMPs.
Here, the auctions diverged early. With 2NT forcing to game (due to the prior 2/1 2♦ bid), Dan decided to rebid a natural 2NT and then after being raised to 3NT, he invited slam with an invitational 4NT and Mike, holding a minimum, declined the invite. At my table, Art decided to rebid 2♠ and see where the auction might go. Eventually they powered into the reasonable slam (6NT), again cold if a key suit (this time spades) broke 3-3 (or ♠J10 doubleton with LHO or ♠Hx doubleton with RHO with a successful restricted choice play). But, you hope for a few more arrows in the quiver than a 3-3 break. You have 11 top tricks.
Here, the only other arrow in the quiver (for 12 tricks) is the ♣A onside. If the ♣A is over your ♣K, you will never see a club lead. But, had the ♣A been onside, a club might have been led and life is good. However, without an opening club lead, declarer is left to lead clubs himself – doomed to go down many on this hand as the cards lay if he were to try this.
I led the ♥9. That lead seemed safest, to me, although on a different layout it might pickle partner’s ♥Q. In 6NT, declarer, trying a club up to the ♣K, hoping for the ♣A onside risked going down many, so eventually declarer cashed out winners, hoping for 3-3 spades, led a club up at trick 12, and lost the last 2 tricks.
Of course, looking at all four hands, the slam is cold via leading up to the ♠AK9 twice, finessing against the ♠J10 onside. Not the percentage way to play the suit, but successful on this layout.
The power of the totally solid diamond suit, provides a source of tricks for 6NT (half way there), but also allows for some successful ruffing without fear of overruff in a diamond contract. Here 6♦ is cold with the ♣K protected on opening lead, and the 4-2 heart split allowing hearts to be ruffed good to score the 12th trick without ever leading up to the ♣K. In fact, you can draw trump first, since you have 3 solid entries to dummy in order to ruff hearts twice and then enjoy the 13th heart. THOSE are the kinds of extra arrows in the quiver that make for excellent slams.
So, the imaginative 2♠ bid that allowed declarer to ‘find’ the ♠K (or else 3 aces) turned out quite effective…until 6NT was reached.
At the other table, the ♣2 opening lead allowed 12 tricks to score, but they were trying to defeat 4NT. So, our +50 with our teammates +490 scored yet another 11 IMPs.