Handling a 4-2 trump split
This deal was played in the 2018 World Championships. A 4–2 split, you wonder? That means our trump fit was only seven cards? I suppose so. In the round of eight in the knockout teams, South held:
♠K 5 ♥A J 7 5 ♦10 8 ♣J 10 8 3
White against red, his partner opened 1NT and he responded 2♦, a transfer to hearts. Left-hand opponent doubled and this was passed around to him. Opener’s refusal to accept the transfer would typically mean he has only two hearts. South tried 3♣ (forcing) and opener bid 3♦. What’s that? Not clear for now, but without a diamond stopper, South bid 3♥, raised to 4♥. The ♣4 was led.
Partner might have tried 3NT– we’ll see later how that would have fared.
East wins the club lead and returns a club, ruffed low by West. West plays the ♦A and the ♦Q, which you win in dummy. Needing the rest, you lead the ♥Q for a finesse. It wins, West following with the ♥8. On the ♥10, East covers with the king to your ace and West throws a diamond to leave:
East remains with ♥9 6, but careful handling picks up the suit. Knowing the clubs will cash, you take both of them and then ruff a diamond. This reduces you to the same number of trumps as East. Then, you play the ♠K and a spade to dummy. If East started with a singleton spade (1=4=4=4), you will be down, but this is unlikely. In fact, the full deal is shown below. With the lead in dummy at trick 12, you lead a spade and have your ♥J 7 over East’s ♥9 6. You lost the first three tricks, but rallied to win the remaining 10.
So, what about 3NT by North? After a diamond to the jack (ducked) and the ♦Q continuation, declarer would have to win the ♦K. If he tried to knock out the ♣A – hoping diamonds were 6–2 with the ♣A with the doubleton – he’d swiftly be defeated. If, instead, he advanced the ♥Q, he’d have three hearts, four spades and a diamond. Still, 3NT is down one on the Real Deal. Well bid and well played for plus 420.