Join Bridge Winners
Dominating Defense
(Page of 11)

In a semi-final match in the Senior Trials, you have to decide what to do with a strong balanced hand against an enemy opening bid.

Both vul, North deals. As West, you hold

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
?

Your call?

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
?

On strength and shape, your hand qualifies for a 1NT overcall. You would prefer to have secondary values in spades, but you have to play with what you are dealt. Clearly you can't make a takeout double with two small clubs. If you pass you will never be able to catch up and may get blown out of a vulnerable game. The danger of going for a number after a 1NT overcall is not as great as many players think. North will be reluctant to double even if he has a good hand, for fear that his partner may have opened light in third seat.

You bid 1NT. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
?

Your call?

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
?

Even though the auction indicates that partner has a singleton spade, you are done. He has heard you overcall 1NT, and he is looking at his singleton spade. It is his job to compete if there is more competing to be done.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

Your lead. From an AK holding, you may lead the ace or a lower honor. If you lead the ace, partner is expected to give an attitude signal. If you lead a lower honor, partner is expected to give a suit-preference signal.

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

Clearly you are going to lead a heart. Suit preference figures to be of more value than attitude with this hand and heart holding, so you shouldn't be leading the ace. Between the king and the queen, the queen is more informative. Partner will probably be able to work out from looking at his hand and dummy that you have AKQ. Even if he can't, he will still be giving a suit-preference signal rather than an attitude signal about hearts.

You lead the queen of hearts:

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
North
J96
7643
Q4
KQ102
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

Partner plays the 5, and declarer the 9. Partner's play is defined as suit-preference. A high spot is suit-preference high. A low spot is suit-preference low. A middle spot is encouraging.

How do you defend?

West
AK43
AK
9865
94
North
J96
764
Q4
KQ102
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

There appear to be several possibilities. Perhaps it is right to draw trumps to stop a diamond ruff in dummy. Perhaps it is right to continue hearts to force declarer and maybe establish a long trump. Perhaps it is right to shift to a diamond to establish diamond tricks before they are discarded on clubs. Perhaps it is right to shift to a club, hoping to get a club ruff.

How should one sort through these possibilities? Looking for layouts where a certain play succeeds is not the right idea, since another play might be better. The key is to eliminate possibilities because another play must be at least as good. If you can see that whenever play A succeeds, play B will also succeed, you can eliminate play A as a candidate.

Consider the possible defense of shifting to a club, playing partner for the ace of clubs and hoping to get a club ruff. If that is the layout, continuing hearts will work also. Either you can cash 3 heart tricks, or declarer will be ruffing a heart. If declarer is ruffing the second or third round of hearts, the forcing defense will always establish a long trump trick, since partner will be able to get in and lead another heart. Therefore, continuing hearts dominates a club shift.

Consider the possible defense of leading trumps to stop a diamond ruff in dummy. If declarer has AKxx of diamonds, either declarer has the ace of clubs and you aren't beating the contract, or partner has the ace of clubs and as we have seen a heart continuation will work also. If declarer's diamonds are weaker partner will have an entry, and there will be time for him to shift to a trump if that is the winning defense.

Consider the possible defense of shifting to a diamond to establish a diamond trick. If this would succeed, it isn't necessarily to do so immediately. You have the ace-king of trumps, so you will still have the potential to establish a diamond trick if that is the winning defense. You can continue hearts now and see what is necessary later.

The conclusion is that continuing hearts dominates everything else. Either this will defeat the contract, or the contract can't be defeated.

You choose to shift to the 9. Partner plays the 3 (UDCA), and declarer wins the ace. Declarer leads the 2. Do you win or duck?

West
AK43
AK
9865
4
North
J96
764
Q4
KQ10
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

There can't be any gain for winning this trick. As long as you have a small trump, declarer can't run winners. Partner might have a stiff queen, in which case going up is disastrous. Even if partner has a stiff 10, declarer might finesse if you play small.

You play small. Dummy's jack loses to partner's queen. Partner returns the 2 to declarer's 10 and your king. What do you do now?

West
AK4
A
9865
4
North
96
76
Q4
KQ10
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

If declarer has the king of diamonds you aren't defeating this contract. Partner's entry is gone, and declarer will have sufficient entries to draw your trumps and take 3 club tricks, 3 diamond tricks, and 2 spade tricks.

If partner has KJ of diamonds, you are always defeating the contract. Declarer won't have enough tricks even if he has 4 club winners, and partner's 3 of clubs indicates that declarer doesn't have 4 club winners. Therefore, the only relevant layout is where partner has the king of diamonds and declarer has the jack of diamonds.

If partner has the 10, it looks like you will be okay. Declarer can ruff a diamond in dummy, but he won't be able to draw your trumps successfully. You can force him with a heart now, and force him again with the fourth round of diamonds if he ruffs a diamond in dummy. Therefore, playing a heart now is fine.

You lead the ace of hearts. Partner plays the 8, and declarer ruffs. Declarer leads a spade. You win your king, and partner discards the 7. What now?

West
A4
9865
4
North
9
7
Q4
KQ10
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

Before seeing partner's diamond discard, it was possible that declarer's hand is 10xxxx, 109, AJ10xx, A. If that were declarer's hand, it would be vital to avoid a club shift. Partner's diamond discard makes it clear that this is not the case. In fact, it looks like partner started with Jxxx of clubs, else he could have discarded a club.

If partner has the hoped-for K10xx of diamonds, he will not be under any pressure even though he has something in three suits. All he has to do is keep the same distribution that dummy holds, and your 98xx of diamonds will eventually become a trick. You might as well punt with a club, although anything should work.

You lead a club. Dummy wins, partner playing the 5. Declarer leads a spade to your ace, partner playing the 3. Now what?

West
4
9865
North
7
Q4
Q10
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P

It shouldn't make a difference, but there is no reason to give declarer anything. Just exit with a spade and let declarer play the hand.

You lead a spade. Declarer has the rest. The full hand is:

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
North
J96
7643
Q4
KQ102
East
Q
J852
J1073
J853
South
108752
109
AK2
A76
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
3
5
9
0
0
1
9
2
3
A
3
1
1
2
3
J
Q
2
1
2
2
10
K
4
0
1
3
A
6
8
5
3
2
3
7
K
6
7
0
2
4
4
K
5
6
1
3
4
9
3
10
A
0
3
5
4
9

Do you agree with the N-S bidding?

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
North
J96
7643
Q4
KQ102
East
Q
J852
J1073
J853
South
108752
109
AK2
A76
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
3
5
9
0
0
1
9
2
3
A
3
1
1
2
3
J
Q
2
1
2
2
10
K
4
0
1
3
A
6
8
5
3
2
3
7
K
6
7
0
2
4
4
K
5
6
1
3
4
9
3
10
A
0
3
5
4
9

South has only 11 HCP, and a weak suit. However, ace-king and an ace are much stronger than other 11-counts. Even if N-S play a sound opening bid style, this hand is just plain an opening bid.

North doesn't know whether or not he can defeat 1NT, or whether or not he can make 2. With 8 trumps, it pays to compete to the 2-level and give the opponents the problem.

Was East right to sell out?

West
AK43
AKQ
9865
94
North
J96
7643
Q4
KQ102
East
Q
J852
J1073
J853
South
108752
109
AK2
A76
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
3
5
9
0
0
1
9
2
3
A
3
1
1
2
3
J
Q
2
1
2
2
10
K
4
0
1
3
A
6
8
5
3
2
3
7
K
6
7
0
2
4
4
K
5
6
1
3
4
9
3
10
A
0
3
5
4
9

East doesn't like selling out at the 2-level when the opponents definitely have an 8-card fit and might have a 9-card fit. The problem is that E-W might not have a good fit, and even if they do, it is still necessary to take 9 tricks to make competing profitable. The actual hand is typical, with 3 down 1 as well as 2 down 1 with proper defense.

At the other table, after the same auction West accurately continued hearts. Declarer ruffed, and led a spade to the jack and queen. West of course didn't overruff the fourth round of hearts, and declarer had to go down 1.

A line of play or defense dominates an alternative line if it is always at least as good. Finding a dominating defense is often the way to think about a defensive problem. If West had thought along these lines, it would have been clear that the heart continuation dominated the club shift, so the club shift could not be right.

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