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SCBA County League 2022 Round Three

More insights from Somerset County league matches.

Ideally, all matches for all three divisions are played on RealBridge the same night. This provides a complete record of bidding and play of the hands and allows for a good comparison of strategies. Unfortunately, in this instance, the travel plans of one of our team were changed and we had to play different hands on BBO the following night. The first two hands are taken from the main night.

Board 6 was a close slam hand where the winning line of play wasn't obvious.

The four declarers in 6 no trumps were doomed from the start but the eight in 6 hearts at least had a chance. After a club lead, the basic question was how best to try to avoid a club loser?

If the king of hearts is with South then you can cross to the queen of spades, take the heart finesse, (leading the queen so that you can repeat it if necessary) and when trumps are drawn you can discard two clubs on your diamonds.

This even works if South has all 4 trumps, provided they have at least 3 diamonds, so you can discard your last club as they ruff with their remaining king of hearts. It does put all your eggs in one basket, however, since if the finesse loses the defenders can take their winning club.

An alternative strategy is to hope the diamonds split 4:3 and simply play four rounds of diamonds, discarding two clubs. If the defender with the 3 diamonds has the king of hearts singleton or doubleton then you have no trump loser after they have ruffed if you lay down the ace of hearts.

A third strategy is to take one round of trumps and then play on diamonds discarding clubs and hope that the defender with the 3 diamonds had only one trump.

In the absence of any bidding from the opposition, then the first option seems the best since the finesse is a 50% chance and you can even deal with the 4-0 trump split provided South has at least 3 diamonds. Two South players bid 3 clubs at their first opportunity to bid, however, and another 3 bid later in the auction. This changes the odds dramatically. As you can calculate from the law of vacant places, the finess is now a less than 50% chance. If South has 7 clubs then North has 1. This means that South has only 6 cards that could be the king of hearts while North has 12 and is therefore twice as likely to hold it. If they have six clubs then it is 11:7 that North has the king of hearts and even with only 5 clubs it is still 4:3.

Three declarers tried the second strategy of playing on diamonds before drawing trumps but only one, no doubt taking note of the 3 club overcall in their auction, found the winning third strategy.

I put this problem to Jack, my computer bridge program, who left to his own devices bid to an unsuccessful 6 no trumps. Guiding the auction to 6 hearts without a 3 clubs overcall, Jack took the heart finesse but with the 3 clubs overcall he too found the winning line.

Board 10 produced a range of results from 2 to 4 hearts making 10, or occasionally 11 tricks but only eleven out of the twenty tables played in a game contract. I've chosen to write about it because it shows how important it is to evaluate your hand correctly, especially when a fit is found.

Usually, North opened 1 heart and the question then is should South bid 2 or 3 hearts? A losing trick count of 8 and 5 card heart support should surely suggest 3 hearts but 3 auctions stopped in 2 hearts!

If you don't use the losing trick count then you must re-evaluate your hand in the light of the excellent fit. A point for each of your doubletons and a point for the extra heart and you have 11 total points, fit points or dummy points, whatever you want to call them.

Even when South did bid 3 hearts, a few Norths passed. Presumably they see an 8 loser hand or are evaluating it as a poor 15 when nothing could be further from the truth. The losing trick count does not work for balanced hands and should not be used. If you insist on using it then deduct a loser at least when you hold 3 aces. Aces are also undervalued in the standard point count. Here you have three aces, two tens and wonderful hearts, two guaranteed tricks from 3 points! This is a very good 15, more like 17 despite its flat shape. I suppose you might bid 3NT on the way to 4 hearts to warn partner you have no ruffing values but passing shouldn't be an option.

Playing a strong NT, Stayman is the best option when North opens 1NT. When partner responds hearts then South can bid 4 hearts. (Without the knowledg of the heart fit, South is a little weak for a transfer to hearts and a spade rebid which is usually played as game forcing.)

Finally, a declarer play decision from the Wedmore face to face session last Monday evening.

South is playing in 3NT after opening with 1 club, 1 diamond from North and 1 heart overcall from East. The two of hearts is led, taken by the ace and the 5 of hearts is returned. What should South do?

The two of hearts is either a singleton or from a 3 card suit. Since East is weak (there are only 12 points missing in total) he would probably have bid pre-emptively with 7 hearts so it looks like the suit is split 3-5.

In that case, the 2 would indicate West holds an honour but is it the queen or the ten? If it is the queen then South should play the king and the heart suit is blocked. If it is the ten then playing the jack will win and South will still have the king to stop the heart suit if they lose to the king of diamonds.

So what should South do? They should ask East what the low lead indicates and specifically what West would lead from 10xx. We were playing East - West and we would lead the middle card from 10xx so South would know for certain that the lead is from Qxx. We were not asked, declarer played the jack, I took my queen and returned a heart clearing the suit for when my partner gained the lead with his king of diamonds. Remember to ask. Some players don't lead small from the 10!

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