Double Dummy 18

This deal from the archives is particularly significant to me because it was played in the days when we had no modern tools like computer deals or Deep Finesse analyses. Back to the future about 40 years ago, but even in those days some of the players knew how to defend without the help of Deep Finesse. At least, I would like to think so.

Dealer West All Vul; Teams


This was the bidding in a teams match:


What is the ONLY way for the defence to defeat 5D and why should the defenders defend that way?

When this was played some forty years ago, after the bidding as above, North led the singleton trump! Why? Because he had potential club tricks if club ruffs could be prevented. West had shown at least 5-5 in the minor suits and East would have useful cards in the majors. There seemed to be little chance of defeating 5D but this was a teams match so why not do your best?

Declarer won the trump in hand and immediately led a spade to dummy’s queen. North followed with the two, which gave South a count of the spade suit. South, instead of shooting back a trump, stopped to think through the situation. It was clear that North had five clubs and was hoping to reduce dummy’s ruffs, but it was also obvious that declarer would have a discard on the king of spades, if needed. What could that discard be?

What was declarer’s shape? Clearly it had to be 6511 or 5521. If declarer had two low hearts, the defence had to take those tricks now or never, but if declarer had Ax of hearts, South’s king was dead anyway, so South did what few players would even think of doing. He led the king of hearts! When that held, he had to resist the temptation of continuing with another before assessing whether a second
heart would cash, and if not, the possible consequences. He needed to make sure what the required continuation was. Could North help? Yes, North did. He followed with the eight! In those days there was nothing as new-fangled as ‘reverse attitude’ so a high card was encouraging. But why should North encourage when South now knew he had the ace? The signal had to be a count signal to tell South that North held an even number of hearts. South now knew that declarer’s only possible losers were in clubs, so reverted to trumps. Declarer now had only two options: try the ruffing finesse in hearts and hope that South was ‘honest’ and had started with AK (who in their right mind would lead the unprotected king???) or ruff a club, but either way the defence would succeed.

I may be wrong but it seems to me that the defence to defeat 5D required a singleton trump lead followed by card perfect play at tricks three and four to set up a no win situation for declarer. If you work on your defence you’ll be surprised how often you’ll come up with a “Double Dummy” defence, but just make sure that you and your regular partner develop that double dummy understanding.