Problem no. 41, 2011

The problem

In bridge, as in real life, the most interesting things are often those which didn't happen. In a team tournament in Gothenburg some thirty years ago, I played the deal below, which I later published in my then weekly column in Aftonbladet – not because of what happened but because of ehat might have happened...

 A K 2 K Q 4 3 7 5 K J 8 4 J 8 4 10 9 3 10 7 6 J 9 5 A Q J 10 9 8 2 K 6 – 10 9 7 5 2 Q 7 6 5 A 8 2 4 3 A Q 6 3

 South West North East 1 NT 3 4 pass 4 pass pass pass

As you can see, my notrump opening was weak at that time (12-14 HCP). After West's preemptive overcall, my partner at that time, Leif Olofsson, forced with a cue-bid, leading to 4 on a 4-3 fit. West led the diamond ace, continued with the diamond deuce to East's king and received a club ruff. But after that, East-West couldn't win more tricks.
Neither side was vulnerable, so we were +420. It was worth 10 IMPs to outr team, when North-South at the other table played 5, going down one, due to fhe foul trump break.

Why did I think the del was interesting enough to be worthy publication: What was the interesting thing which might have happened?

Solution

What might have happened is that West had led a low diamond instead of the ace. If South asks dummy to plan "low", East might think: "West's preemptive overcall is surely based on Ace-Queen-Jack seventh, and his leading a low diamond is an indication that he is void in clubs. King of diamonds, a club ruff and the ace of diamonds are three tricks, and a fourth trick will never materialize. Therefore, our only chance is that West gets two diamond ruffs, which is possible only if South has precisely 4-3 AND I finesse the six of diamonds. So, East plays "third hand low", wins the trick, hands West a club ruff, wins the next trick with the king of diamonds, and gives West another ruff.
But the declarer can foil that plan. Instead of a sloppy five of diamonds, South can be alert and order dummy to play the seven of diamonds. Then, East's second entry disapperas, and the second club ruff as well.
OK, dear reader, would YOU have realized that it was important which diamond spot you played to the first trick in that scenario? Wouldn't we all have missed it...

Today, there are other things with the deal, which I find just as interesting. One is that the contract would probably have been 3 notrump hade West shut up over 1 notrump. North will then ask for majors with 2, and when South says he has four spades and less than four hearts, North will jump to 3 notrump. But then it's not sure West will lead diamonds; the risk of his partner's having at most one diamond is quite high (and if he doesn't, it will be three overtricks instead of three undertricks).
Another interesting thing is that 5 looks destined to make if North and South swap the six of clubs and the eight of clubs. If the defenders win two diamond tricks and shift to a major, declarer cashes the king of clubs, noting West's showing out. He then cashes his six major suit tricks, with North on lead:

 – 4 – J 6 4 – – – – Q J 10 9 – – 10 9 7 5 7 – – A Q 8

Dummy plays a low trump (or the four of hearts), and East is powerless. If he plays the ten or the nine, South wins the trick, ruffs the spade seven with the trump jack and wins the two last tricks with his trump tenace.
But there is a defense, which beats 5 even when South has the club eight. It is three rounds of diamonds – against the triple void. If North discards a major, East pitches a heart; and if North ruffs, East pitches a spade. Then, declarer can't win six major tricks before picking up East's trumps, so the contract goes one down.

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