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Trump Tricks - Bridge 217

I am often asked why we go to the trouble of looking for suit fits in cases where we have obviously got stoppers in all suits. After all, making 10 tricks in 3NT scores 10 points more than making the same number of tricks in, say, 4♠, the difference being significant in match point ("top-bottom") competitions. This may be true when both hands are balanced, but even then, most often a suit contract will yield at least one more trick than NT.

Consider the following hand:


♠ A 7 6 4

8 4 3


A Q 6


♠ 10 3                 

♣ K 8 7               

♠ 9 8 2

K J 10 5

Q 9 7 2

J 8 7 5 3


9 2

♣ 6 3

♠ K Q J 5

♣ Q J 9 2

A 6

K 10 4

♣ A 10 5 4

South opened the bidding with 1NT and North, with 13 points and not much thought, raised the bid to 3NT. West led a Heart and declarer was able to score 10 tricks - 4 Spades, 1 Heart, 3 Diamonds and 2 Clubs – for a non-vulnerable score of 430, Alternatively, had North bid 2♣ over South's 1NT, the Stayman convention asking partner to show their 4-card majors, the partnership would have ended up in 4♠. After winning the opening Heart lead, declarer would have drawn trumps in 3 rounds, leaving a fourth trump in both hands, and cashed 3 Diamond and 2 Club tricks – a total of 9 tricks thus far. After conceding a Heart and a Club to the opponents, South would have been the position to score a tenth and eleventh by ruffing a Heart in hand and a Club in dummy, for a score of 450.

Essentially, the difference of the eleventh trick when playing 4♠, derives from the ability to score a trump trick in the South hand by ruffing a heart. In NT one is restricted to 4 tricks in Spades while in the suit contract, the trump trick effectively renders the number of tricks in Spades to 5. An extreme example of this arose in a memorable hand which my partner and I encountered in a recent club tournament:


♠ A Q J 8 2

Q 10 7 5




♠ K 9 7 5             

♣ A 7 4 3               

♠ 10 6 4 3

8 6


A Q J 3


10 7 6 4 3

♣ K 10 6 2

♠ -

♣ Q 8 5 2

A K J 9 4 3 2

K 9 8 4

♣ J 9

A NT contact with the North-South hands would yield only 9 or 10 tricks, depending on the lead, while all 13 tricks can be made in a Heart contract. On any lead other than a Heart, the 7 Hearts in the South hand can be augmented by 4 trump tricks – ruffs of Diamonds in the North hand. Together with the two black Aces, 13 tricks are available. How about the case where defense leads a trump? I'll leave the answer till after I have discussed our bidding on the hand.

As it happens, we bid a grand slam in Hearts: My partner opened the bidding with 1 and over West's takeout double, I bid 2NT, Jacoby, showing at least 4 Hearts and sufficient values for game. Partner responded with 3♠, indicating shortage in that suit – singleton or void - and I countered with 4♣ to show my ♣A. Partner now bid 4NT, enquiring about keycards, to which I responded 6 to show an even number of keycards, in this case my 2 black Aces, and a void in Diamonds. Partner, knowing that he could discard his Club loser on my ♠A and confident that he could avoid losing a Diamond, bid 7.

West led a Heart – he correctly saw no merit in leading away from the high cards in any of the other suits – and thereby deprived my partner the chance of scoring 4 trump ticks in dummy. There was still the possibility of making a thirteenth trick if West, who was known from his first-round double to have most of the outstanding high cards, held less than 4 cards in Diamonds headed by the A or no more than 4 Spades to the ♠K. In either case, trumping the small cards from declarer's hand and dummy would promote the K or ♠Q, respectively. as winners.

The odds favor West having 4 cards or less Spades, as with 5 or more, he would have bid that suit rather than double. To set up the Spade suit, though, requires 4 entries – 3 to be able to trump 3 rounds of Spades and a fourth to reach the established ♠Q winner. This represents no problem as there is always possibility of entering the dummy via 3 Diamond ruffs and the ♣A. However, if West has both outstanding trumps, as is the case here, timing of the entries to the table is all important as West's second trump must be drawn before the ♠Q can be profitably cashed.

Partner found the correct line by winning the opening lead in his hand and leading a Diamond which he ruffed on the table. He now played the ♠A on which he discarded a small Club from his hand and followed this with dummy's ♠2 which he ruffed in hand. Next came a second small Diamond which he ruffed on the table, providing an entry for a ruff of the ♠9. Then, back in his hand, he led a third Diamond, ruffed with dummy's last Heart but enabling him to lead the ♠J which he ruffed felling West's ♠K. Once again back in hand, he was able now to draw West's remaining trump. The ♣A in Dummy provided the entry needed to cash the ♠Q on which he threw his remaining Diamond and with only Hearts left in his hand, he triumphantly claimed the last two tricks and the grand slam contract.

Don't get me wrong. Suit contacts do not always play better than No Trumps but there are situations in which the ability to score additional trump tricks becomes the main consideration. 



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Monday, 22 July 2024

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