Mike's Advice


A Play Hand — All About the Trump Suit

One of the best kept secrets of bidding is that playing in a 4-3 fit is not necessarily a bad thing. Admittedly, it can be nervous.

♠ A Q 10
6 5 4 3
8 7
♣ A Q 8 5
♠ K J 9 4
J 5 4 3 2
♣ K 4 2
West North East South
1♣ Pass 1♠
Pass 2♠ All Pass

North chose to raise to 2♠, a sane enough bid, and South played there. West led the K, East signaling that he liked them and West continued with a small heart to East’s ace. South ruffed it and drew three rounds of trumps, hoping for a small miracle. East turned up with four spades, and that meant that East still had one. South led clubs and got lucky to find they were 3-3. So South took seven tricks for down one. South lamented that 1NT would have been better.
West was a better counter than South and he informed South that 1NT would also be down.
Here is the complete hand.

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

The first thing worth noting is that East-West can take eight tricks against notrump. 1NT could have gone down two, a worse result that 2♠ down one. The second thing worth noting is that South could have made his 2♠ contract. In fact, on the lay of the cards, he would have made an overtrick.
The trick is to go against normal guidelines. After two rounds of hearts, South can see that ruffing diamonds in dummy is not likely to be useful. It might suffice to get eight tricks but it might not. Better is to see the need to ruff hearts in the South hand instead.
If South plays this way, he will ruff the second heart. He will go to dummy with a club in order to ruff another heart. Another entry to dummy’s clubs allows South to ruff one more heart. With clubs dividing 3-3, South is able to cash the ♣K and will take the last three spade tricks. He will get three spades, three clubs, and three heart ruffs in hand.
Ruffing in your hand is something that is not recommended. Usually that is because your hand has the longer trump holding and ruffing in your hand may cause you to lose control. But, as shown in this hand, there are exceptions.
Here is an example of someone foolishly ruffing in his hand. I will show you all four hands immediately for this one.

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

South played in 4 after North’s 1♣ bid. West led spades and South won the ace in dummy. He wanted to lead a heart toward the dummy so he ruffed a spade and led a heart to the king. Then he ruffed another spade and led a second heart toward the dummy.
The good news was that West had the ace of hearts. The bad news was that he had four of them. West took his ace and returned a trump, leaving West with a heart and North-South heartless. South cashed the tricks he could but it was not enough.
The defenders got in by ruffing one of South’s diamonds and they took a lot of spade tricks and some clubs as well.
What South had to do was lead hearts from his hand, but he should have come to his hand by using his diamond entries, not his ruffing entries.

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