Wednesday Play at The Hutt (17)

Most Norths opened this hand with 1NT though some opened 1C and rebid 2C. Against 1NT, East should lead the KING of spades and not the 8. WHY?

Board 17 from Wednesday 31/03/21
Dealer N Nil Vul


Because it won’t matter if West has either the ace or the jack, but if West has neither, then the eight will lose to the nine or jack in dummy or declarer’s hand. Thus, the king protects against giving a cheap trick away and also sets the defence on an attacking path if West can cooperate. West can, indeed, and should SIGNAL by playing the NINE, a high card being encouraging. That is the old way to signal: HIGH, you LIKE the lead, LOW, you DON’T. Signalling here is important, because a clever declarer could well have the ace and jack and let East hold the king in the hope that East continues the suit.

Such a play is known as the “Bath Coup”. No one falls for it these days because all good defenders have a proper signalling system, though some, as you will find out later, play just the opposite signals, known as “REVERSE ATTITUDE”. I personally find ‘reverse’ to be LESS efficient and effective than the old fashioned signals, but unfortunately NZ Bridge teaches “Reverse” in their improver lessons, why they do, I really don’t know. But it is always up to the players which signalling system they play.

After the defence take their four spade tricks, East will switch to a heart and this will find declarer’s second weak spot. Declarer will have no choice but to win the heart ace and play on clubs in the hope that clubs will provide five tricks. That can only be done by finessing in the suit, leading the queen and continuing clubs to pick up West’s king. That, fortuitously, works, but do you see a possible problem?

If declarer just grabs all available tricks by playing off the diamonds, declarer will win the fourth diamond, after they break, in dummy. Now, when declarer leads clubs, West may cover either the first or second time and lock declarer in dummy, with two more club tricks sitting in their own hand!

Timing the play in the right order and thinking what might happen is most important. Declarer should lead a diamond to the queen in dummy, leaving the king in hand as a future entry, and then play on clubs. When dummy wins the blocking ten or jack, declarer can unblock the other club(s), come to hand with the king of diamonds for her last two clubs and then, when the diamonds fall, end up making the final tricks, nine in all. The first four are all the defenders can take, which ends up to be a better score (+150) than the less risky 2C contract, which makes ten tricks but scores only +130.