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Trump Considerations in Defense

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In previous articles, I have dealt with the various ways in which declarers can make best use of their trump resources and, conversely, the importance of declarers maintaining control of the trump suit lest they end up in a no-trump like situation where, bereft of trumps, they are powerless to prevent opponents from running side-suit winners. In this article, I want to return to considering trumps from the defender's perspective and, in particular, some related notions regarding opening leads against suit contracts. How many times have we not all automatically made the lead of a singleton or doubleton in a side suit, hoping to score tricks by ruffing declarer's winners with our lowly trumps, only to find such a lead gave away the contract?

Two hands came up in a pre-Covid-19 team match, which illustrate some important principles. In the first hand, my partner and I were sitting East-West in the closed room and our teammates North-South in the open room. With North-South vulnerable and East-West not vulnerable, the bidding was identical in both rooms. North opened the bidding with 1NT. East overcalled 2NT, showing two 5-card minors and South bid 3♠ which North raised to game. West was on lead with ♠ 5 4 3 2, K 6 5 4 3, 2, ♣ A J 9. What would you have led?

Before continuing, let's look at what happened in the open room. Here's the full hand:


North



♠ A K Q



A 7


West

A 8 7 6 5

East

♠ 5 4 3 2         

♣ 4 3 2                

♠ -

K 6 5 4 3


Q J 10

2

South

K Q J 10 9

♣ A J 9 

♠ J 10 9 8 7 6

♣ 10 8 7 6 5


9 8 2



4 3

♣ K Q



Our teammate in the open room received the lead of the 2 which he won in dummy with the A. He next played the A followed by the7. East won with theJ, cashed the K and followed this with the Q, hoping his partner could overruff declarer. He couldn't and declarer, on winning the trick with the ♠6, played his last heart which he ruffed in dummy with the ♠K and led a club. West won with ♣A but that was the last trick the opponents made and our teammates chalked up 620 points for the vulnerable game.

In the closed room, my partner eschewed the lead of her singleton diamond. She reckoned that I would anyway make whatever natural diamond tricks were due to us and her best bet was to lead a trump to diminish the ruffing power of the "short" hand, North. With 3 potential entries to her hand, she would subsequently be able to continue the attack on trumps. Declarer won her opening lead with the ♠Q and played the A followed by the 7. My partner overtook my J with her K and played a second round of trumps, won in dummy with the ♠K. Declarer tried to get to his hand with a club, but my partner won with ♣A and played yet another trump. This was won with dummy's ♠A but dummy no longer had any spades to trump the remaining heart loser in declarer's hand. One down and 100 to the good guys. Incidentally, the swing on this hand of 720 points yielded 12 IMPs, enough to give us the match and qualify for the next round of the tournament, in which we encountered the second hand of interest:


North



♠ J 10 5



9 7 2


West

4 3                  

East

♠ 8 6                   

♣ Q 9 8 6 2

♠ 9 4 3 2

A K Q J 3


10 8 6 5

K Q 10 6 5

South

J 7

♣ 7

♠ A K Q 8

♣ 5 4 3


4



A 9 8 2

♣ A K J 10



This time, we were sitting N/S in the open room. I was dealer in the South seat, both sides vulnerable. With 21 points I opened the bidding with 2NT, not really appropriate with a hand containing a singleton, but I feared a bid of 1may be passed out and we would lose any chance of a vulnerable game. West overcalled with 3, showing 5 hearts and 5 cards in a minor, my partner and East both passed, and I bid 3♠, again not really appropriate – perhaps I should have bid 4♣ which would have led to the easily makeable club game. My partner, thinking I had opened with a hand containing 5 spades, and giving full value to her doubleton diamond – clearly West's second suit - raised to 4♠.

West decided there was little point leading his singleton club as his partner couldn't possibly have an entry, and correctly chose to play a forcing game with the lead of the A. When this held, he continued with the K. I nearly succumbed to West's strategy by trumping the second heart but years of experience kicked in. Trumps were unlikely to split 3-3, so if I trumped, I would lose control of the hand. I could draw 3 rounds of trumps but this would have left East with a master spade which he could use to trump the fourth round of clubs, leaving me unable to enjoy dummy's fifth club and with 3 diamond losers in hand, I would have ended one down. Instead, I discarded a small diamond from my hand. West continued with the Q and again I discarded another diamond loser. Dummy was now also out of hearts so West switched to diamonds. I won with theA, drew trumps in four rounds and ran 5 club tricks for a total of 10 tricks and game.

The opponents in the closed room reached the much easier club game but our teammates sacrificed in 5 doubled, down 2 for 500 to the opponents. This was not as much as the 620 we had made in the open room and the 120-point difference, yielding 3 IMPs, contributed to our winning the match. We were eliminated in the next round, the Quarter Finals, but what the heck! We enjoyed the ride immensely. It's a great game and win or lose, it never fails to interest.

 

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

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