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Bridge Deal of the Week (Dec 01 2006)

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  Deal   ♠ 83
    ♥ AQJ7654
    ♦ 763
    ♣ Q


The Auction:
West   North   East   South
                       3     pass
pass     dbl      pass    3NT
all pass

You take the East seat in this defensive problem, playing IMPs. You open the bidding with a 3 preempt, South and East pass. North reopens with a double, and South's 3NT ends the auction. Partner dutifully leads the 3. Before reading on, you should think through your defense.

If declarer has 9 top tricks, there is nothing you can do. You therefore assume that declarer does not have 9 top tricks. The obvious move of setting up hearts seems to be a good idea. Let us look at the heart suit in closer detail. The missing hearts are the K, 10, 9 and 2. Unless South has lost his mind, he should have the K for the 3NT bid. Also, declarer cannot have a doubleton heart; partner would lead the 10 from 1093, and the 2 from 1032 or 932. If partner has the singleton 3, prospects are bleak, as the heart suit becomes entryless. The only relevant holding that you should be concerned about is partner having the 32 doubleton. In that scenario, playing the A and continuing with the Q will remove partner's hearts, and the heart suit is as good as dead.

The correct play to trick 1 is the J. This preserves communications with partner. Declarer can with the trick with the K, but when he has to give up the lead, partner can win and put you in with the 2, and you can enjoy all the hearts. You play the J, eagerly thinking about the moment where you cash your lovely hearts. Declarer apparently has done some thinking too, as he ducks the J. What now?

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Bridge Baron deal No: N1938-21791-74544-13602-86401-77456

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