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May 29, 2000
Step by Step and Play This 3NT

Step by Step

This brief is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in Issue #12 (May/Jun 1996) of The Bridge Companion.

INSTRUCTIONS: Step by Step is a bridge problem presented in serial form. Read each panel and work out the answer to the question or questions asked before continuing. This is similar to the thinking process you should go through as you bid and play a hand.


Your are sitting East with North as dealer you pick up:

spade.gif (842 bytes)A32
heart.gif (841 bytes)KQ1094
diamond.gif (837 bytes)8532
club.gif (841 bytes)A

A hand with a value of 14 points. An opening 1heart.gif (841 bytes) bid. North, dealer, opens 1club.gif (841 bytes) ahead of you and it is your turn. Your hand meets all the requirements for an overcall; (1) quality five card suit and (2) about the values of an opening bid. The auction continues:

West North East South
1club.gif (841 bytes) 1heart.gif (841 bytes) 1spade.gif (842 bytes)
Pass 3spade.gif (842 bytes) Pass 4spade.gif (842 bytes)
Pass Pass Pass

What is the approximate number of points in partner’s hand? It is a little hard to tell how much distribution played in the North-South bidding. Partner has from 0 to possibly 4 or 5 points. Partner leads the heart.gif (841 bytes)7 and the dummy comes into view.

The dummy is 17 points in support of spades and is the strength indicated during the bidding. No surprises.

spade.gif (842 bytes)KJ74
heart.gif (841 bytes)AJ8
diamond.gif (837 bytes)6
West club.gif (841 bytes)KQ1084 East (you)
spade.gif (842 bytes)??? spade.gif (842 bytes)A32
heart.gif (841 bytes)??? heart.gif (841 bytes)KQ1094
diamond.gif (837 bytes)??? diamond.gif (837 bytes)8532
club.gif (841 bytes)??? South club.gif (841 bytes)A
spade.gif (842 bytes)???
heart.gif (841 bytes)???
diamond.gif (837 bytes)???
club.gif (841 bytes)???

Based on your analysis of the opening lead and the cards in dummy....

How many hearts in partner’s hand?

How many hearts in declarer’s hand?

Decide now before moving to the next panel.


Based upon the opening lead partner has either one or two hearts. The hearts that you cannot see include 7-6-5-3-2. With three or more hearts partner would lead either fourth best or low. With two partner would lead the highest (and with only one partner leads it). If partner has two then declarer has three hearts. If partner has only one then declarer has four hearts. Do you expect to defeat 4heart.gif (841 bytes)?

From the analysis of the opening lead you should be able to take two heart tricks and two aces for down one. Good thing you bid to get partner to lead a heart.

Declarer plays the heart.gif (841 bytes)8 from dummy. What card should you play to trick one?

heart.gif (841 bytes)K? heart.gif (841 bytes)Q? heart.gif (841 bytes)10? heart.gif (841 bytes)9? heart.gif (841 bytes)4?

As third hand you should play the lowest of "equal honors". This helps inform partner as to the card position. On this hand it probably will not matter, but it is good technique and something you should practice. Play the heart.gif (841 bytes)9. The heart.gif (841 bytes)A and heart.gif (841 bytes)J are in the dummy.

Your heart.gif (841 bytes)9 wins the trick. What do you lead to trick two?

Return the heart.gif (841 bytes)K. It is important to develop the two heart tricks that you know you have coming. The aces will provide an entry to gain the lead to cash your second heart trick.

Partner contributes the heart.gif (841 bytes)2 to trick two. You therefore know that declarer started with exactly three hearts.

Declarer wins the heart.gif (841 bytes)A in the dummy and leads the spade.gif (842 bytes)4.

What do play and why? Who has the spade.gif (842 bytes)Q?


You should expect declarer to hold the spade.gif (842 bytes)Q based on the play to trick three. Without the spade.gif (842 bytes)Q playing low from the dummy would be unusual indeed. You have already determined that you can defeat declarer one trick and should do so when defending 4spade.gif (842 bytes).

Is there any chance for your side to take five tricks instead of four tricks? If the contract was 3spade.gif (842 bytes) instead of 4spade.gif (842 bytes) how would you play to defeat them? What do you need partner to hold in order to be successful?

What is the maximum number of spades partner can hold?

What should you play to trick four?

What should you play to trick five?

What should you play to trick six?

Partner can have, at a maximum, two spades (perhaps only one or none). After winning the spade lead with the spade.gif (842 bytes)A, cash the club.gif (841 bytes)A and lead the heart.gif (841 bytes)4 (your lowest) for partner to trump. Partner can then return a club (your heart.gif (841 bytes)4 is a suit preference signal calling for the lowest side suit) for you to trump! You can take five tricks (heart.gif (841 bytes)9, spade.gif (842 bytes)A, club.gif (841 bytes)A, a heart ruff in partner’s hand, and a club ruff in your hand). Ruff is another word for trumping.

You can achieve this only by planning ahead. Note that if partner leads a diamond instead of a heart, declarer with make 4spade.gif (842 bytes) easily.

spade.gif (842 bytes)KJ74
heart.gif (841 bytes)AJ8
diamond.gif (837 bytes)6
West club.gif (841 bytes)KQ1084 East (you)
spade.gif (842 bytes)95 spade.gif (842 bytes)A32
heart.gif (841 bytes)72 heart.gif (841 bytes)KQ1094
diamond.gif (837 bytes)KQ109 diamond.gif (837 bytes)8532
club.gif (841 bytes)76532 South club.gif (841 bytes)A
spade.gif (842 bytes)Q1086
heart.gif (841 bytes)653
diamond.gif (837 bytes)AJ74
club.gif (841 bytes)J9


Play This 3NT

You are sitting South:

West North East South
1diamond.gif (837 bytes)
Pass 1heart.gif (841 bytes) Pass 1NT
Pass 3NT Pass Pass


spade.gif (842 bytes)A4
heart.gif (841 bytes)AJ102
diamond.gif (837 bytes)K94
West club.gif (841 bytes)J865 East
spade.gif (842 bytes)??? spade.gif (842 bytes)???
heart.gif (841 bytes)??? heart.gif (841 bytes)???
diamond.gif (837 bytes)??? diamond.gif (837 bytes)???
club.gif (841 bytes)??? South (you) club.gif (841 bytes)???
spade.gif (842 bytes)K7
heart.gif (841 bytes)Q65
diamond.gif (837 bytes)A852
club.gif (841 bytes)A742

The opening lead is the the spade.gif (842 bytes)J. Plan your play.

You need nine tricks and have 6 top winners (2 spades, 1 heart, 2 diamonds, and 1 club). Time is on the side of the opponents. They have attacked the best suit for E-W. Hearts is the best chance to yield three tricks in time.

How should you play hearts?

The heart.gif (841 bytes)K must be onside so any 3-3 division will do it.

Will any other division allow you to win a total of 4 heart tricks?

Yes! The singleton or doubleton king onside will do it.

Win the spade.gif (842 bytes)K and lead a small heart towards dummy and take a finesse When this works, return to the South hand with a diamond and lead another SMALL heart towards dummy.

If you ever sacrifice your heart.gif (841 bytes)Q to the heart.gif (841 bytes)K then the contract is doomed unless the suit breaks 3-3. Give yourself the best chance. Careful play will yield nine ticks. The whole hand:

spade.gif (842 bytes)A4
heart.gif (841 bytes)AJ102
diamond.gif (837 bytes)K94
West club.gif (841 bytes)J865 East
spade.gif (842 bytes)J10983 spade.gif (842 bytes)Q652
heart.gif (841 bytes)K4 heart.gif (841 bytes)9873
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Q1076 diamond.gif (837 bytes)J3
club.gif (841 bytes)93 South (you) club.gif (841 bytes)KQ10
spade.gif (842 bytes)K7
heart.gif (841 bytes)Q65
diamond.gif (837 bytes)A852
club.gif (841 bytes)A742

Gary King

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