Here is a hand from the USA Women’s Trials 2009, as reported by David Greenwood and Andrew Robson. I found it instructive because it illustrates the value of counting your winners.
South dealt and EW were vulnerable. Imagine you are sitting South and playing 4S. Here are your hand and dummy:
S: ? S: ?
H: ? H: ?
D: ? D: ?
C: ? C: ?
West led the nine of diamonds to East’s jack. East continued with the king of diamonds and West shows out. East now leads the ace of diamonds. What do you play from hand?
At the table, declarer ruffed with the spade ten, hoping that East had the queen. West overruffed with the queen and led the queen of clubs. Declarer won the ace, pulled trumps and cashed high hearts. However, this still only came to nine tricks, five trumps, three hearts and the ace of clubs. Declarer had to lose a club at the end for down one.
So what did you play from hand on the third diamond? The full deal is shown below.
S: Q5 S: 3
H: J1087632 H: 9
D: 9 D: AKJ5432
C: QJ3 C: K652
If declarer counts winners, the contract can be made easily. She has six trump tricks, provided only that West is not void in trumps, three top hearts and the ace of clubs. The important thing is not to throw away one of these trump tricks by being over ruffed.
So what do you play at trick three? The answer is to throw a losing club from hand. The defence is now helpless. You win any return (if East continues a fourth round of diamonds you ruff on board), pull trumps, cash the queen of hearts, lead a low trump to get to board and throw your remaining clubs on dummy’s two top hearts. You have your ten winners and game.
If you bid, even if you do not get the contract, sometimes it pushes the opposition too high and sometimes it helps formulate an accurate defence. Sometimes, on the other hand, it helps the opposition avoid an unmakeable contract. This is definitely not what you want!
Here is a tricky deal to bid for NS. East-West were vulnerable and North dealt. Plan how you would bid the NS hands.
S: AQ942 S: K7653
H: Q65 H: J82
D: 42 D: Q8
C: J63 C: Q52
Standard American bidding would probably go as below:
North East South West
1N P 3D P
3N P P ?
Three diamonds by South shows a six card diamond suit and is invitational. North, with a very flat hand and help in diamonds, likely would bid 3N. Now what is West to do? With a void West will be uneasy about no trumps, but knowing that nine tricks are much easier to take than eleven tricks for a game in diamonds, he may well eventually pass. Half the tables ended up in 3N, going down as the opponents rattled off the first five tricks in spades.
So how else can NS bid the hands? At the table where my partner and I were playing EW, South bid a 2S response to 1N, as minor suit stayman, asking partner to bid a four card minor if he had one. This allowed my partner to double to show a spade suit. North bid his club suit. I raised my partner’s spades and South now bid 4D to end the auction, as below:
North East South West
1N P 2S Dbl
3C 3S 4D All pass
Unfortunately, our bidding had done a good job of warning NS to stay out of no trumps! Four diamonds made an overtrick for a poor result for us.