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A Bonus 4441 Hand

I just had to add this one to the previous article because it was another 4441 hand that was very badly handled by all those at the table: at least in most cases that was so. The deal also requires better declarer play and defence than was evident in our Thursday session, maybe those aspects were better at other clubs. Let’s take a look at:

Board 5 from Thursday 22/03/2018
Dealer N NS Vul

Board#5 22/03/2018

At most tables, East opened 1♦ and South overcalled 1♥. 2♣ from West, pass from North. If East follows my recommendation, East bids 2♦, telling the lie about the length of the diamonds, after all it is a good suit. Then, West makes the cue bid of 2♥ and East is happy to bid 2NT which West raises to 3NT.

That is how the bidding should go. Most EW pairs in fact did get to 3NT, which is not surprising. In most cases it was East who became declarer, and in all cases South decided to lead a low heart, in one or two cases the more technically superior lead of the TEN. But is it the best lead in THIS case? I suggest it is not.

Because South does not know the exact layout of the heart suit, South should consider the possibility that East has four hearts and West a doubleton. If East has both the queen and jack, it doesn’t matter what heart is led, but if West has a doubleton jack or queen, it will take the first trick if a low heart is led, and declarer’s other honour will provide a second cover, just as it does here. Now for the clincher: because South has a certain entry in the diamond suit, South should take every avenue open. South should start the defence with the ACE or KING of hearts. Then, when South sees dummy, it should be easy to continue with the other top heart and then the ten to knock out declarer’s queen.

Only one heart loser and four heart tricks the moment diamonds are played. What actually happened in many cases was that the declarers in 3NT received the favourable lead of a LOW heart, and despite the fact that they should then have made 3NT, they took the losing line and went down two or three. What was the winning line? Instead of becoming mesmerised with the club prospects, which requires a lucky break in clubs anyway, declarer should have set up the sure tricks first, by playing on diamonds. Not only would that have set up diamond tricks, it would have removed South’s entry for the hearts, which still had a stopper in declarer’s hand thanks to the opening lead being a LOW heart.

If you want to improve your play, enrol for “Thirteen Tricks”. My book “Tips and Quips” is still available in limited numbers by emailing me at or order here.

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