Tricky Answers (12)

You are South.



Dealer East all vul at match points.
East opens 1S. What do you bid?

Mostly agreement on this one. 4H seems to be the ‘value’ bid. The problem may arise if West bids 4S and then back to you. But, at least you have bid your hand.

2. Match Points Dealer N All Vul

Your hand:


The bidding has been:


What would you lead and why?

Can you possibly go wrong if you lead your partner’s suit? Anything else must be a stab in the dark, though I have a sneaking liking for a trump lead, which should make declarer work for his slam, if indeed it isn’t cold. As it happens, the jack of spades lead would result in a good declarer making the slam, whereas with a trump lead, the defence would probably prevail if partner has nerves of steel, as you can read next.

3. Now for a double dummy problem


You are WEST. South has opened 1S and you have made the excellent bid of 4H. Your lunatic partner then has bid 6H! North leads the jack of spades. Not difficult to see how you can make 6H now, but the double dummy problem is: What is the BEST defence and can you still make 6H and if so, how?

This full deal is, as the reader will have guessed, a follow up to the first two questions. This was the actual deal when it arose in a matchpoint session on a recent Friday. East was, as stated earlier, somewhat of a lunatic to bid the slam, because so many Wests did not even bid to 4H, with most Easts showing a lack of interest in moving further than 3H. But our double dummy problem is more interesting than a mere part score, or even game, in hearts.

What is declarer’s best chance if North opens with the lead of the jack of spades? Obviously, South must have the ace of clubs for there to be any play for twelve tricks, so declarer should win the spade lead in dummy and immediately lead a club. South rises with the ace and leads the queen of spades. This presents declarer with a problem: to discard a club from hand and hope that North started with two spades, or to ruff high in hand if North started with a singleton spade. Declarer will then be able to ruff two clubs, using diamond ruffs back to hand. That is what I would choose to do, rather than risk a spade ruff. That line fails as the cards lie because the hearts break 4-0! Bad luck, but is that the best line?

If declarer watches the PIPS, declarer will probably see that South follows with the THREE of spades. If this is a suit preference signal, the lowest card asking for a club, then why play the THREE if you also have the TWO? And if it is anything else, the three is also a strange play if you also have the two. Most people will play their lowest card, and if they don’t they would play a higher card than the three, as a false card. It is amazing how much you can learn if you watch all the PIPS at trick one. If declarer believes that NORTH has the two of spades as well as the jack, declarer will let the spade run to dummy’s king and make 6H. Is that the best defence? It works against a good declarer but not a good and very observant one, so is there a better defence that can’t be seen through? On the surface of it, the best defence is to prevent any club ruffs at all, by starting with a trump. Then, when declarer leads a low club from dummy, for South to duck and allow North to win the jack and lead a second trump. That puts paid to any club ruffs, but....when declarer wins the king of clubs and works out what is going on, declarer does NOT bother with a second club! Instead, knowing that there are no club ruffs available, and taking into account South’s opening bid, declarer now runs off as many trumps as necessary to catch South in a squeeze ‘without a count’:

These are the last seven cards in each hand, declarer having taken the first six tricks:


Another trump is led and South can happily discard the low club. Dummy discards a diamond, as does North. But the final trump is very embarrassing for South. There is no option but to toss the ace of clubs, but fortunately for South, North can keep his good club. No club trick for declarer, but South had far too many good cards and is down to spades and diamonds, and when declarer plays the three spades from dummy, South does win the third but is left with the KJ of diamonds to lead to dummy’s AQ.

Not at all difficult for an expert declarer who might have gone wrong if the defence had started with a spade lead! And by the way, if an expert North starts by leading the TWO of spades, as I have seen many learners do, I’m sure that not even the most expert declarer will make the slam. He would think: could the spade two be anything other than a singleton? Sadly, our panel were unanimous in NOT choosing that lead! Is the lead of the JS ingrained, or unimaginative?