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Deal of the Week (Apr 06, 2007) Click here for Archives
This hand came up in the Round-of-16 Vanderbilt match-up between teams captained by Bart Bramley and George Jacobs, at the recent St.Louis NABC. Mark Feldman of the Bramley team reached 6♠ as South (hands rotated for convenience) after a complicated auction, the opponents remaining silent. Plan the play after the ♣Q is led. Remember, the scoring is IMPs and the objective is to ensure the contract.

The contract revolves primarily around the diamond suit. If diamonds divide 3-2, the hand is simple. When diamonds are 4-1, handling problems occur. Let us see what happens if we draw trumps. If trumps split 4-2, four rounds are required to exhaust the enemy trumps. When you play the Ace and King of diamonds and find out about the 4-1 diamond break, you can ruff only one more diamond, and the slam has to fail.

Another simple solution is to cross to hand and take the diamond finesse. The snag in crossing to ♠K and taking a diamond finesse is that if East has four trumps, the defense can score a diamond ruff. If you draw trumps and take the diamond finesse, the defense can cash club tricks. The contract is too good to stake it on a 50% chance, so this line can be ruled out.

What about playing Ace-King of diamonds immediately before drawing trumps? This is a better plan and wins whenever the opponent with 4 diamonds has 2 trumps as well. The hand with 4 trumps will ruff the diamond, so you are okay. You can ruff 2 diamonds in hand, using a club ruff and the ♠A as entries to dummy. However, if the person with 4 diamonds also has 4 trumps, if you ruff two diamonds in hand, then you will have fewer trumps than him and will go down.

The solution is to play a diamond to the Ace, and play a diamond towards your Jack, intending to concede the trick. Whenever diamonds are no worse than 4-1 and spades are no worse than 4-2, this play guarantees the slam. On this deal, East has four diamonds headed by the Queen, but has no counter:

- If he wins Queen and plays back a diamond, you will ruff high, draw trumps and claim.

- If East wins the Queen and plays a club, you will ruff in dummy, unblock the ♠A, return to the K, draw trumps and claim.

- Say East refrains from playing the Q and lets West ruff the trick. If West returns a club, you ruff in dummy, unblock the ♠A, ruff a diamond high, draw trumps and claim. If West returns a heart, you must take care to preserve the A as an entry to dummy, and win this in your hand with the K. You can enter dummy with the ♠A (or a club ruff), ruff a diamond high and use the A as an entry to the diamonds.

 9873 Deal  62
 J93  Q76
  6   Q942
 QJ982  K1075

At the other table, Zia Mahmood and Michael Rosenberg reached 7♠, which is an excellent contract if diamonds split 3-2, a 68% chance. Since diamonds were 4-1 on this deal, 7♠ goes down, and making 6♠ netted 17 IMPs for the Bramley team, who went on to win the match.

Bridge Baron's double dummy solver confirms that the recommended line does indeed cater to all possible lie of cards. The double dummy solver also suggested an adjunct to this line, which preserves overtrick chances. Win the club lead in hand, cross over to the A, play a spade to the King, and run the J. If East ducks, you can cross to the ♠A, ruff a diamond high, draw trumps and use the A as an entry to the diamonds. Similarly, other lines of defense can be countered.

This line is particularly appealing at matchpoints, where every trick is important. At IMPs, the overtrick is of minor significance particularly since the contract is excellent, and the extra effort is optional.
Par Contract Analysis:
6♠ is the par contract on this deal. On a major suit lead, the contract is laydown - win the lead, draw trumps and run the J, making an overtrick if the finesse wins, or claiming the contract if the finesse loses.

On a club lead, your club control is dislodged, and hence the handling problems. A diamond lead warns you about the diamond position, but similar problems exist. If you win the Ace, draw trumps and run the J, East can let this win, and you lack the entries to bring the diamond suit home. Unblocking the J under the Ace doesn't help either, since you don't have the 9. The solution here is the same, win the A and lead a low diamond to the Jack.

Bridge Baron deal No : N1852-83390-21372-08997-22572-97843

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