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Deal of the Week (Apr 13, 2007) Click here for Archives

The Auction:
West   North   East   South
pass     1       5♣     5
pass     6       pass    pass
dbl       all pass

This week's deal took place in an online match. Fulvio Fantoni was South on this deal (rotated for convenience), partnering Jimmy Cayne. This week we step away from the usual format, and present you with all four hands, since the solution is not trivial even after looking at all four hands! It is worth noting that North's 6 bid is a bit ambitious, given that even 5 is a very difficult contract.

West leads the ♣10, you ruff East's Queen with the A. You play a diamond to the 7, East discards a club. Plan the play knowing that East has 9 clubs.

The most obvious line is to play East to have the singleton Queen or Jack of Hearts, and play the A and take a deep finesse the next round. But what does West have for his double apart from four little diamonds? He must have thought he had the heart suit under lock, he must have at least QJxx in hearts.

Fantoni saw this, and realized that he could make the contract via an endplay if spades were 3-3. After ruffing the opening club lead with the K, he played a diamond to the 7, discovering the 4-0 break. He continued by ruffing the ♣J and playing a heart. West split his honors and played the Jack, dummy's King won the trick. Declarer now played a spade to his King, East following with the Jack. A spade to the Ace now brought the Queen from West. This is the position now:

 ? Deal  ?
 654  -
 -  A98765
Fantoni realized spades had to be 3-3 to make the hand; if East had an original holding of QJ doubleton in spades, the hand cannot be made. Assuming spades were indeed 3-3, Fantoni was at the crossroads now: Who has the ♠10? If East started with the QJ10 of spades, he had to play a spade to East's ten. East, who would have only clubs left, would have to concede a ruff-and-discard. If East had started with QJx instead, and had forseen the endplay and unblocked the Jack and Queen of spades, declarer would have to draw the outstanding trumps before playing a spade to West's ten. West would win the ♠10, but would have to lead a heart into the tenace position. So, what is the right play?

At first sight, it appears as if Fantoni has a 50-50 guess as to who has the ♠10. However, playing West for the ♠10 is a better percentage play, according to the principle of restricted choice (for more on the principle of restricted choice, see July 7th 2006 Deal of the Week or Feb 9th 2007 Deal of the Week). If East had the QJ10 of spades, he has six ways of playing to the Ace-King of spades (Queen-Jack, Queen-Ten, Jack-Queen, Jack-Ten, Ten-Queen, Ten-Jack). With QJ10 of spades, since East is likely to follow with Jack-Queen one time out of six, it is better to play West for the ♠10, and endplay him in spades after drawing trumps. What did Fantoni do at the table?

Fantoni actually chose to immediately play a spade, playing East to have the QJ10 of spades. As the cards were, West won the trick and safely exited a trump to set the slam by one trick. It was not clear why Fantoni adopted this line of play. It could be that Fantoni followed a restricted choice argument of his own "If East has the QJx in spades, he might fail to unblock the Queen and Jack. If he had the QJ10, he might be likely to play the Jack and Queen on most occasions"!

 1063 Deal  QJ2
 QJ96  3
 6542  -
 104  AKQ987652

While the contract did not make, Fantoni deserves full credit for visualizing such a complex line, and coming so close to finding the winning play.

Bridge Baron's double dummy solver asserts that if East started with QJ10 of spades, or fails to unblock his spade honors on the current layout, the contract can be made by endplaying East in spades. When East unblocks the Queen and Jack of Spades, the double dummy analysis confirms that drawing trumps and endplaying West is the only way to make the contract.
Par Contract Analysis:
The par contract is 7♣X by East-West, which is a sacrifice against 6.

Bridge Baron deal No : N1094-72891-98111-27730-01414-28766

You can download this deal in PPL format, and view it with Bridge Baron here :
Deal Of The Week
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