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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:
A hand with a value of 14 points. An opening 1 bid. North, dealer, opens 1 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:
What is the approximate number of points in partners 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 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.
Based on your analysis of the opening lead and the cards in dummy....
How many hearts in partners hand?
How many hearts in declarers 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 4?
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 8 from dummy. What card should you play to trick one?
K? Q? 10? 9? 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 9. The A and J are in the dummy.
Your 9 wins the trick. What do you lead to trick two?
Return the 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 2 to trick two. You therefore know that declarer started with exactly three hearts.
Declarer wins the A in the dummy and leads the 4.
What do play and why? Who has the Q?
You should expect declarer to hold the Q based on the play to trick three. Without the 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 4.
Is there any chance for your side to take five tricks instead of four tricks? If the contract was 3 instead of 4 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 A, cash the A and lead the 4 (your lowest) for partner to trump. Partner can then return a club (your 4 is a suit preference signal calling for the lowest side suit) for you to trump! You can take five tricks (9, A, A, a heart ruff in partners 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 4 easily.
Play This 3NT
You are sitting South:
The opening lead is the the 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 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 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 Q to the 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: