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Work out this hand with calm thinking and take it to table

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I have a truncated week because of constant travel, so I’m going to do a “deep dive“ into one of my favourite hands in the hope that you will look at it enough times to fully understand the central point, and then take that same mindset to the table when you are planning a declarer play or defence. See the hand in Figure 1.

Figure 1

South opened the hand one spade and soon found himself as declarer in the small slam in spades – he can afford to lose only one trick. West led the club King.

The hand has many chances and declarer started by winning the club Ace and playing the Ace and King of spades, when East showed out on the second round declarer has a spade loser and must avoid losing a club.

The diamond suit provides a parking spot for one loser and if West has at least three hearts the second club loser can go on the fourth heart – the choices all seem quite simple.

With only five diamonds in the two hands the natural inclination is to start on diamonds, discard a club and then play on hearts hoping West can’t ruff before the fourth heart. Declarer did this but, alas, West ruffed the third diamond and cashed a club – down one!

This is the reflex play on the hand and most players, including experts, make this play when the hand is given to them – the hand, however, needs a lot more thought!

One thing you know is that, in order to succeed West needs to hold at least three hearts. Given that, you must start on the hearts and to your delight East discards a club on the third heart.

You now know that West, the hand with the trump, started with four hearts, so you can safely play the fourth heart and discard a club – now you play three rounds of diamonds discarding the other losing club. West ruffs, but it is all too late as you only have trumps left and the hand makes!

See the full hand in Figure 2.

Figure 2

What If East and West follow to the first three hearts? Now you must not play the fourth heart – your only chance now is to go back to diamonds, take a club pitch and then play the last heart. It doesn’t work on this hand, but it is the right play.

Now don’t just say to yourself, “I’d never figure that out”, and move on! You can figure these things out with a little bit of calm thinking and you can then repeat it at the table either in declarer play or defence, trust me, you can! Improvement just requires a little bit of work.

David Ezekiel can be reached on davidezekiel999@gmail.com


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Published September 02, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated September 02, 2023 at 7:35 am)

Work out this hand with calm thinking and take it to table

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