Best try for a 12th
For the sixth week in a row, our Real Deal comes from the 2018 U.S. Bridge Championships. South, vulnerable against not, held:
♠K 10 3 ♥Q 7 4 2 ♦A Q 3 ♣A J 2
Right-hand opponent dealt and opened 3♦. As they say, “It is dangerous to bid, but it is dangerous to pass.” South overcalled 3NT, raised to 6NT by partner. How should you play after a diamond lead?
In notrump, I recommend counting top tricks. Here, you can count on 11 (clubs are sure to run). How should you try for the 12th?
One declarer won the ♦K and played the ♥5 at trick two. Do you like that play? The preempter could have the ♥K, but these days, a white on red preempt doesn’t really show anything. It must be better to play on spades. Why?
If spades are 3–3 (or doubleton ♠Q J), you have 12 tricks. Admittedly, a 3–3 break is less likely than the 50–50 ♥K play. But even if spades aren’t 3–3, there is a great second chance. If the player with long spades has the ♥K, you will fall into your 12th trick.
Here is the Real Deal:
As you can see, the declarer who led a low heart at trick two went down. West took the ♥K and there were only 11 tricks. Declarer’s team lost 13 IMPs (the other table was in game) instead of winning 13.
In a different match – all matches used the same deals – declarer led a spade to the 10 at trick two. It lost to the queen, and West returned a spade. Declarer won the ♠K, cashed the clubs and the ♥A, and then took his diamonds. This was the remaining position:
On the play of the last diamond, West has to abandon one of the majors. As long as spades were 3–3, or the player with the long spades had the ♥K (as here), the contract makes. This is a much better shot than putting all the eggs into the ♥K onside basket.