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Would you have switched?

An interesting deal turned up in the 18th Champions cup in Bucharest. While England beat Monaco 51:30 in one semi-final, BC’t Onstein 1 beat Canottieri Olona 70:45 despite losing 11 imps here.

S AK54 H Q D A974 C J874 S QJT872 S 3 H 543 H AJT876 D Q D T65 C AQ6 C 953 S 96 H K92 D KJ832 C KT2

Table East South West North 1 2H pass 3H X pass 3NT 2 2H pass 2S X pass 3H pass 3NT

At table 1, 3 NT was made after West led the 5 of hearts to the ace, followed by the Jack from East. South simply held up the king until the 3rd round and East had no entries. At table 2 East lead the 3 of spades to defeat the contract. Whatever North does, West has sufficient entries to enjoy their spades.

The 3 of spades lead at table 2 was easy to find since partner had bid spades but East at table 1 had a chance to switch after taking their ace of hearts. From the bidding it is clear that South must hold the king of hearts and, unless partner started with 4 hearts, East has no prospect of further heart tricks. West must hold length in spades since South bid 3NT with a poor heart stop rather than supporting North’s spades suit implied by their double. Also, if anyone has entries it is West since East has none. Who can tell whether on average it is better to switch or continue hearts though? I put this problem to Jack with both sides playing Acol. Playing as East with the bidding as at table, 1 Jack switches to the 3 spades at trick 2. This is even though partner has not bid spades and Jack can see AK54 in dummy! Would you have even envisaged a spade switch? It is important to realise that Jack plays the hands without taking advantage of the fact that he knows all four hands. When he plays he only uses his knowledge of his own hand and dummy. Jack has come to his conclusion by dealing 1000 pairs of hands for West and South, all consistent with the above bidding and then playing each deal double dummy for each possible return from East at trick 2. Doing this, Jack finds that, on average, he will score about -30 by returning the 3 of spades (3NT made would be -400 of course) but about -90 by returning the jack of hearts. In this particular deal, the switch is too late to defeat the contract if declarer's play is as good as Jack’s. By running 5 diamond tricks and never touching clubs he must make his contract. Any attempt to play on the club suit before taking all 5 diamonds can result in the contract failing, however, and I am sure many of us might make this mistake holding king, ace and ten and needing a trick from clubs. The moral of this story is to always consider ways of establishing tricks for partner when you have poor prospects yourself.

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