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Foolish or Brilliant?
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This is was one of the most talked about hands from the open trials:

You are Joel Wooldridge, sitting East, playing with John Hurd.    Eric Greco is on your left, Geoff Hampson on your right.

West
North
J976
AQ965
4
862
East
1043
K108
10862
1093
South
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
4
P
5N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
6
A
3
1
0
J
2
5
2

1:  Strong, artificial

1:  Natural GF

DBL: Takeout

5NT: Pick a slam

You play Rusinow leads, standard carding at trick 1, UDCA after that.

Partner leads the queen of diamonds.  You play the 6, and declarer wins the ace.

At trick 2, declarer leads the jack of hearts.  Partner plays the 2, and declarer plays small from dummy.

Obviously it wouldn't be any good to think about this play and then duck.  So, let's suppose you took the time at trick 1 to work out what you would do if the play went this way, so you are able to duck in tempo if you so choose.

Would you win the king or duck?

West
North
J976
AQ965
4
862
East
1043
K108
10862
1093
South
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
4
P
5N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
6
A
3
1
0
J
2
5
2

All indications are that declarer's distribution is 4-2-3-4.  With 3 hearts he could have raised hearts and wouldn't be playing the heart suit this way at trick 2.  With 5 spades he would have bid 2 and would be drawing trump.  You can ignore partner's 2 of hearts.  Partner knows you know the count, so he won't necessarily be carding honestly.

What are declarer's spades?  They can't be AKQx, else declarer would be drawing trump.  Declarer would be overbidding drastically if he is missing the ace of spades.  He could have AQxx, but with that he might have chosen to bid RKC as it would be possible to be off two key cards.  More likely his spade holding is AKxx.  

Declarer's clubs are definitely strong.  At least AKJx.  More likely AKQx.

Suppose declarer's hand is AK8x Jx Axx AKQx.  If you win the king of hearts, declarer will have to bring in the spade suit for no losers.  His percentage play is to play somebody for queen-doubleton.  That will succeed, and he will have 5 spade tricks, 4 heart tricks, 2 club tricks (at least) and 1 diamond trick.

If you duck the king of hearts, it is another story.  Declarer will be convinced the king of hearts is onside, since he won't be expecting you to duck here.  He will also think that partner has Kxxx of hearts, since with Kx or Kxx partner would have covered the jack of hearts because declarer was definitely planning on finessing.  That puts a lot of black cards in your hand, and declarer will be concerned about a 4-1 spade split.  He might well choose to take the safety play of ace of spades and a low spade to dummy guarding against you having Q10xx.  He will know the king of hearts is onside, which may be all he needs.

If he takes this line of play, you will defeat a cold contract.  Partner wins the queen of spades, and leads a heart.  Declarer has to finesse, and that will be that.

What if partner has the king of spades.  The trick still figures to come back.  Once again, declarer will be banking on the heart finesse he is sure is onside for his twelfth trick.

It looks like ducking (in tempo, of course) is the right play.

West
K8
432
KQ953
754
North
J976
AQ965
4
862
East
1043
K108
10862
1093
South
AQ52
J7
AJ7
AKQJ
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1
1
2
P
P
X
P
2
P
4
P
5N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
6
A
3
1
0
J
2
5
8
3
2
0
7
3
6
8
1
3
0
J
4
2
K
0
3
1
8
9
3
A
3
4
1
J
5
7
2
1
5
1
2
3
A
4
3
6
1
Q
8

After the jack of hearts held, declarer ruffed a diamond in dummy and ran the jack of spades.  Hurd won the king, and returned a spade.  Declarer won in hand, ruffed his last diamond, and returned with a club to pull the last trump and claim, taking 5 spade tricks, 4 club tricks, 2 heart tricks, and 1 diamond trick.

Wooldridge was very unlucky that declarer's clubs were solid.  If declarer were missing the jack of clubs, a heart return by Hurd would force declarer to commit before testing the clubs, and declarer woud undoubtedly have taken the heart finesse.

Even on the actual layout, a heart return might have succeeded.  From declarer's point of view, West started with Kxxx of hearts along with 5 diamonds.  The spades could be 4-1, giving East 4-2-4-3 shape.  Declarer might well have taken the heart finesse he "knows" is onside, and led the 9 of spades.  When East covers from his original 108xx, declarer wins, cashes 3 clubs, ruffs his last diamond, and leads the ace of hearts establishing a trump coup.  Note that declarer needs to have taken the heart finesse for this to succeed, as he must have a winning heart in dummy to put through East in order to take care of the fourth club if East doesn't ruff.  Of course East might see the danger and not cover, but at least declarer will have put East to the test and possibly back his table feel and ride the 9 of spades if East ducks.

We can't know how much of this Wooldridge worked out in the short time he had to make his decision, and he may have been playing more on instinct than a complete analysis.  Right or wrong, it was an impressive play to find at the table.  Was it foolish or brilliant?  You can be the judge of that.

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