A misplayed hand

See if you can play the following hand better than Tom did while playing with Peter Shwartz about a year ago at the club.  Tom, South, held:
With no one vulnerable, West opened the bidding with 1♦.  Peter doubled for take-out.  East, known to be an aggressive bidder, passed.  Tom jumped to 2♥, showing hearts and 9-11 playing points opposite Peter’s takeout double.  West doubled for take-out.  Peter raised to 3♥.  East came alive with 4♦ , and Tom took a flyer at 4♥ . 
Summarizing the bidding, starting with West:
1♦ –  *  – pass – 2♥
*   – 3♥ – 4♦ – 4♥
West, after some thought, leads the ♣︎K.  Peter tables the following dummy:
Tom misplayed the hand and went down — and has been thinking about it ever since.  Can you play the hand better than Tom did?  As usual, the key is making inferences, both positive and negative.
Answer
This is how Tom thought (erroneously) about the hand at the table that day: 

­­

Peter will not be happy that I competed to 4 with such balanced shape.  Perhaps I can surprise him and make the contract.  Well, let’s see.  I have two potential diamond losers, a club loser, and a possible loser in hearts — one loser too many.  I can get rid of the heart loser if the trump finesse succeeds.  If so, that’s 10 tricks and I make the contract.  A 50-50 chance is better than no chance at all.  No reason not to take the club Ace immediately.  Then take the trump finesse immediately.


Tom did just that.  With the trump king offside and defendants then finding the diamond switch, he lost 4 tricks for down 1.

Before reading on, take a moment to think how Tom’s superficial analysis cost him the contract.

Had he been thinking that day, the following is what Tom might have thought.


I have two potential diamond losers, a club loser, and a possible loser in hearts — one loser too many.  I can get rid of the heart loser if the trump finesse succeeds.  If so, that’s 10 tricks and I make the contract.  A 50-50 chance is better than no chance at all. 

Can I think of anything about the bidding, opening lead and conduct of the opponents that might lead to a better line?   Let’s think about that.  West opened the bidding, then, facing a passing partner, made a take-out double.  West should have a pretty good hand as she may be forcing her partner to bid at the 3 level having passed originally.  East passed originally, and then came in with a 4 diamond bid!  She’s crazier than I am.  What can she possibly have to justify such crazyness? 

The opening lead is a bit off — after some thought, West made the potentially dangerous lead from the KQx(x) of clubs which risks promoting my club jack if her partner does not have it.  Certainly, if she had an easy safe opening lead in diamonds, she would have led that suit instead immediately.  With AK or KQ of diamonds, a diamond lead is much, much safer.  So perhaps she does not have either of those holdings.  Yeah, that makes some sense.  The dangerous diamond holding she might have is A Q x x (x).  She might be like me — she hates to lead an ace without the king against a trump contract.  Actually, that makes a lot of sense.  To raise to 4 diamonds having passed, I would expect East to have something  in diamonds.  Let’s give East K x x x (x) in the diamond suit. 

What about the heart King?  West should have no more than 2 hearts for her takeout double.  If East has the heart King doubleton, that would give her at least a useful 6 high card points and at least 4 diamonds after her partner’s opening bid.  Is East the type of player that would have the nerve to come in on the 4 level having made an ultra-conservative pass at the 2 level?  I don’t think so!  So I’m giving West the trump king.  If West has the trump king, the only way I’m making this contract is by dropping the king singleton.  So I’ll close my eyes and just cash the trump ace.


Too bad Tom did not think this through, because this was the full hand:

Hand_100417Full
Tom’s key mistake:  not asking himself the question “Can I think of anything about the bidding, opening lead and conduct of the opponents that might impact my chosen line of play?”  Don’t be mentally lazy like Tom was that day —  always ask yourself this question before you commit to a particular line of play.   Had Tom taken the time to think of exactly why West would chose not to lead a diamond — the obvious lead when partner supported your suit — he might (let’s not give him too much credit) have figured this out at the table.
Tear_Hair_Out_Male
If at this point in your bridge development you are despairing of ever being able to engage in this type of analysis — no worries.  Most A players would miss this.  Tom certainly did.  But the basic idea behind the problem — making a close inferential analysis of the bidding, opening lead, and any other information before playing the hand, is an essential skill to any aspiring bridge player and something each of you should work on, on every day you play bridge and on every hand you play.

 

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