Mike's Advice


Beyond the Obvious

Sitting South, you pick up a hand with a bit of potential.
East deals, Both sides vulnerable

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

You did not bid over East’s 1♣ bid (correctly) and the rest of the auction negates any hopes you had for playing the hand. So you defend with it instead. Your partner leads the ♠2, a lead that you rather like. When the dummy comes down you should take a moment or two to review the bidding and see if you can draw any conclusions.
What do you learn by doing this? Form an opinion and continue.
The first thing that comes to mind is that East might have opened 1NT. You catch a look at their convention card and discover they are using weak notrumps. You then note what the two notrump bid showed and see that it shows 11 or 12 points.
The next thing you should do is estimate their combined assets and work out what your partner can contribute.
Dummy has 15 and declarer has at least 11. That adds up to 26 points. You have 12, which tells you that your partner has a point or two. He won’t have more and he won’t have less.
Declarer calls for the ♠4 from dummy.
Now what?
In your style of leads, your partner’s ♠2 lead promises an honor. Your agreement is that with nothing in a suit, the lead is a higher spot card, trying to suggest nothing good in the suit. The normal play is to play the eight, forcing out an honor from declarer. Then, when your partner gets in, another spade lead will allow your side to cash three more spade tricks.
All good in theory. Here is what happens if you play the eight. Declarer wins with the jack and he attacks clubs by leading to dummy’s jack. You win. Now, to get partner in. Can you do that?
Given that you know your partner has a maximum of two points, likely the ♠Q, there is no way you are getting him in for a spade continuation.
Here is the complete hand. Your playing the ♠8 was well intended, but it did not work. Declarer will make at least nine tricks and probably will make 10. He might even make 11 if you fail to take your ♠A at some time.

Dlr: East ♠ Q 5 2
Vul: All 10 9 5 2
9 8 3 2
♣ 8 7
♠ J 6 3 ♠ K 7 4
8 3 A K Q J
K Q 7 5 J 10
♣ K Q 6 2 ♣ J 10 9 4
♠ A 10 9 8
7 6 4
A 6 4
♣ A 5 3

Could you have beaten 3NT? In fact, there is a successful defense. Win the ♠A at trick one and continue with the 10. If your partner has the queen (possible), you can set up three spade winners and you will get in to use them.

This defense goes against the grain but once you see that playing the eight at trick one won’t work, you need to look further to see if there is a lie of the cards that does work. Hence, the ace play at the first trick.

Interestingly, it might seem that partner’s spade lead was necessary to set 3NT. It wasn’t. In fact, any card North leads will work. South has to defend correctly, but in all cases, there is a winning defense. Say North leads a heart, the most passive lead he has. Declarer wins and eventually leads a minor suit. South takes the first round of whichever minor declarer is leading and leads the ♠10. This play traps West’s jack and it sets up three spade tricks for the defense without giving away a ninth trick in the meantime.

It is an odd hand where partner’s lead looks good initially but less good after the play continues.

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