Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Defensive Problem

Playing IMPS, you hold 4 Q93 Q74 AQT865 with no one Vul in first seat. You decide to open 3C and this goes P P to your RHO who bids 3N, ending the auction.

You decide to lead your singleton Spade and this dummy appears, Q975 J874 K65 J2. Declarer plays the 5 on the first Spade and captures your partners 8 with the 10. Declarer then plays the 3 of Clubs towards dummy, your play.

What is declarer doing, you are looking at stoppers in both red suits, so where are the tricks coming from. Does he really only need 1 Club trick for 9 tricks, or what is he doing.

I think there are 3 main options here, and still not sure what is the best. Option #1 involves ducking this completely, and hoping your partner can get in to lead a (hopeful) 2nd Club through declarers supposed K. Option #2 involves clearing the Club suit with Q, A, and another, and hoping you can win a trick with a red suit Q to set this (if declarer needs another trick and you can survive the Spade discards), and option #3 involves winning this trick with the Q and playing on a red suit.

I have some sympathy with option #3, but that means something strange is going on. Even if we give declarer 5 Spade tricks, an outside AK in a red suit leads to only 8 winners. And if declarer has the other red A, then he has 9 winners in that case and will likely not go down. For that reason, I also think option #1 is out. Once you duck the Club and the J holds, any competent declarer is going to have to go out of his way to allow your partner to win a trick now, really unlikely. And even if you win a Red Q and the A of Clubs, you are essentially back to option #3.

For that reason, as bad as it might prove to be, I like option #2 on the hand. Declarer may guess you to have 1 of the red Q’s on this hand for the play, but may not guess you have both, and may not have anything they can do about it anyways. The biggest option is what discards you are going to have to make on the Spades that are coming next. I am not sure I have an answer for that, will have to depend on what partner signals, but I think it is the least of all evils. And who knows, a nice declarer might not run the Spades before trying to guess what red Q to play you for on the hand. Not perfect, but not sure there is a perfect answer on this hand.

On the actual hand, the person defending with this hand did choose option #3, winning the Q of Clubs and switching to the Q of Diamonds. This was not a success, since Declarer held AKT3 A62 AJ8 K73. On the Spade lead, declarer had 7 tricks, and the Club gave 8, so instead of trying to make an early guess on a red suit to play, started by trying to set up a Club trick (and cutting communications) and got a bonus when the Q of Diamonds came back. This was now 9 easy tricks, on a hand that any other defense would probably beat. The hand was beat in 3N at the other table, for a double digit swing.

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