Count it Out

Last Sunday, Tom and I hosted a defense seminar focusing on upside-down attitude. We had a wonderful, engaged group, and we covered a broad range of material about opening leads, signaling, and forming a defensive plan. I found one board that Tom created for our practice session particularly interesting. The following hand (North) ends up on lead against the auction listed below:

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 6.23.06 AM 1

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 6.23.33 AM

Perhaps you made a light takeout double of 1, but the final contract remains – West made a help-suit-game-try (HSGT) to invite East to game, but East rejected the invitation. We lead the ♠A, showing AK, and the dummy comes down in the East:

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 6.23.14 AM

Clearly, East was having none of the game try, and settled in 3. We lead the ♠A and partner signals encouragement per our defensive methods. We successfully cash the ♠K, declarer following. Obeying partner’s encouraging signal, we lead a 3rd spade and  partner ruffs. Here comes the first teachable moment – when we give partner a ruff, we should give him SUIT PREFERENCE to indicate which suit he should play upon getting on lead with his ruff. Here, we have club suit preference, so we use the lowest spade (♠5) to give the ruff. Partner was paying attention, so he ruffs the spade, and plays the ♣J. Declarer plays the Q, and we win the ♣A.

What is your next play?

Well, let’s do some counting. We have 4 tricks so far — 2 spades, a ruff, and the ace of clubs. Where will our 5th trick come from?

If we count out the whole spade suit, we’ll determine that they were 4-4-3-2 around the table to start with. So, we have one more and declarer has one more. Dummy and partner are both out of spades. Remember this.

Now, in terms of HCP — declarer showed around 15-17 to bid the help suit game try. We know he started with exactly 2 HCP in clubs (the queen and no others) and 2 HCP in spades (the queen and no others). So, he has 11+ HCP in the red suits. It is overwhelmingly likely that declarer has both red aces. He also has the ♣K all set up for a pitch if he needs. So, what HCP could partner have that nets us a trick — perhaps a high heart?

If partner started with Kx(x) orQx(x), his honor is finessable, or will fall. HOWEVER – we can try to give him a TRUMP PROMOTION! If we play a spade, and partner can overruff the dummy, declarer will have to follow suit in spades, and partner’s high heart will be our 5th trick!

If partner can’t overruff dummy, there was just no way to beat the hand so we go home happy. And, if partner had the A (instead of a high heart) all along, we are certainly scoring it later.

Here is the full deal:

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 6.23.43 AM

The moral of this story is to carefully count high card points, and, if there appears to be no additional winners in the side suits, perhaps a winner can be generated in the trump suit, as was the case here.

— Julie Arbit

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