Friday, September 10, 2010

Good but not good enough

I played online last night with Notzia. On board #11, he held:
Q 5 2 A K 6 3 2 10 8 A Q 7.

His right-hand opponent opened 1 and he overcalled 1. His LHO passed and I bid 1NT. What would you do?

Notzia raised to 2NT, a nice bid in my opinion. He knows I have constructive values and may have enough for game, but not enough to do more than bid 1NT. I raised to 3NT.

Now, let's suppose you are sitting East in the following diagram. Partner leads the 3.

Q 5 2
A K 6 3 2
10 8
A Q 7
J 7 6
10 8 4
Q 9 7 3
10 5 2

Declarer plays low, you put up the jack and South wins the ace. At trick two, he leads the 5, partner plays the 7, dummy the 2 and you?

Suppose you win the 8. Now what?

At my table, declarer shifted to the 4 -- good, but not good enough. Here are all four hands:

Q 5 2
A K 6 3 2
10 8
A Q 7
K 9 4 3 J 7 6
Q J 7 10 8 4
A J 4 Q 9 7 3
J 8 3 10 5 2
A 10 8
9 5
K 6 5 2
K 9 6 4

Do you notice anything? Yes, East could shift to the (not so obvious) queen, instead of the 3. Would you find that play? The Q shift would allow the defense to take three diamonds on power (or four if I cover) to go with the heart and the K. With the shift of a low diamond, I was able to duck and lose only two diamonds and make my contract.

Plus 400 was worth 3.72 IMPs. You can see all the results, if you click here.


  1. While my gut instinct would have been to return the DQ, let's look much more deeply into this hand from the defender's point of view.

    If the cards were as they actually lay, declarer could have easily played HAK and another to keep LHO on lead.

    But let's say declarer held


    Now, the DQ return blocks the suit as long as declarer ducks once or partner doesn't unblock a diamond honor. If declarer ducks twice, we can cut him off from his hand.

    I think both constructions are reasonable on the auction, so it comes down to how likely I think declarer made a mistake by ducking the heart, right?

  2. Meant to say "if declarer ducks once AND partner doesn't unblock a diamond honor". So the question is the likelihood of declarer making a mistake versus my partner making a mistake.