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20 May 3/1: problems in defence

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:05 am
by John McLeod
In hand 1 of the third session I was Mittelhand and passed. Hinterhand won the bidding for 40, Vorhand having held his bid of 36. Hinterhand looked at the Skat and announced clubs as trump. My hand and the first few tricks, as well as I can remember, were as follows:

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Mittelhand            Hinterhand plays in clubs, having bid up to 40 and looked at the skat.
J: --                              V   M   H   V   M
C: Q                     Trick 1   DK  DA  CA
S: 10 Q 8                Trick 2           C7  CK  CQ
H: A K 7                 Trick 3   CJ  D7  C7
D: A 8 7                 Trick 4   HQ  HA  H9
                         Trick 5       D8  S9  D10
Hinterhand made the contract, taking 63 points, while at the other table the contract went off. What do you think of my play?

My thought processes were as follows. On trick 1, for me it is automatic to play the ace of diamonds. If I play low and declarer has no diamonds he will throw a loser for only 4 points and we will still have the lead in the wrong place. If he has a diamond then I have wasted a chance to make my ace and take the lead.
One trick 2 I have no choice but to follow with my single trump, leaving partner on lead again.
Partner's lead of the jack of clubs to trick 3 makes it clear that he has the top three jacks. Hinterhand should be without 3 to justify his bid, and no doubt Vorhand is hoping that I have a second trump, in which case he can draw all the trumps. So declarer started with 6 trumps and no diamonds, and must have four cards in hearts and spades. Therefore it is important for me to preserve my holdings in those suits. If necessary I will be able to save my ace and ten later on partner's other jacks. So I throw a diamond.
I don't really know why I played the ace of hearts. Playing the king seems to be safer, provided the declarer has not kept a singleton 10.
At trick 5 I return my partner's lead - not only on general principles, but because it is likely that he led from 10 x x, especially since from his bidding he seemd to be planning to play diamonds with three, on this lead declarer either has to let the 10 win or trump a worthless trick, leaving himself with just two small trumps against my partner's two jacks.

Where did we go wrong? Here is the full deal.

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Vorhand        Mittlehand    Hinterhand       Skat
J: C S H	    J: --         J: D             H10, H9	
C: K           C: Q          C: A 10 9 8 7  
S: 7           S: 10 Q 8     S: A K 9         Hinterhand bids to 40
H: Q 8         H: A K 7      H: --            takes the skat and plays clubs
D: 10 K 9      D: A 8 7      D: Q
At first I thought my only mistake was in trick 3. Although I'm right to keep my ace and ten for later use, I should at least put some points in this trick - the king of hearts or queen of spades would have been enough. After that the contract can be defeated, though the right line depends on whether the declarer has put the 10 of hearts or the king of spades in the skat.

But rather to my dismay, it turns out that as the cards lie, my first mistake was the play I considered obvious - the ace of diamonds in the first trick. On this deal I can play low and let the declarer throw losers and it actually doesn't help him. Can ducking the king of diamonds really be correct? I can't bring myself to doubt that, as a general rule, one should overtake the king with the ace in a situation like this, either forcing the declarer to trump or putting him in the middle of the next trick. Maybe on this deal I needed to think right from the start about the likelihood that my partner had the top three jacks, and that therefore I should be looking to save my ten and both my aces?

Re: 20 May 3/1: problems in defence

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:08 pm
by Mike Tobias
You may simply be being too hard on yourself, sometimes it's the 'wrong' move that beats the contract. In this case, declarer has a weak hand, but the 'right' play by you has given him 39pts after trick 1, and as the cards lie, the Ace of Spades and 10 of trumps to come.

Maybe despite the Vorhand's 4 trumps, the singleton Spade would have been a better lead, or the small Diamond rather than the King.

Re: 20 May 3/1: problems in defence

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:04 pm
by John McLeod
As the cards lie, it seems that the singleton spade is indeed a better opening lead than the diamond king. This too is a surprise - normally you lead a singleton because you hope for a ruff, which you definitely don't want on this hand. The reason it works here is mainly that it's a cheap way to get rid of the lead. As with the diamonds, if Mittelhand has the ace of spades he should not play it, but keep it either to win a later trick on which Vorhand can throw his D10 or if necessary to save on one of Vorhand's big trumps.
You were in fact Vorhand on this deal, Mike. I would have led DK, just as you did. In general one should lead K rather than a small one from 10-K-x so as not to give declarer an extra trick if he has A-Q doubleton and chooses to finesse.
The small diamond lead is equivalent to the king on this deal if Mittelhand plays his ace, but worse if he correctly plays low, because you don't get the 4 points when declarer unloads his heart. After two rounds of playing small diamonds, if Mittelhand refuses to cover, you'll be leading your spade anyway. You'll end up leading it at some point almost whatever you do, because you are going to get the lead so many times with all those jacks.

Re: 20 May 3/1: problems in defence

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 11:49 am
by Mike Tobias
John McLeod wrote:As the cards lie, it seems that the singleton spade is indeed a better opening lead than the diamond king. This too is a surprise - normally you lead a singleton because you hope for a ruff, which you definitely don't want on this hand. The reason it works here is mainly that it's a cheap way to get rid of the lead.
That's true. If you turn this around and look at it from Declarer's point of view, it's a very weak hand. 4 big ones, needs to bank one and cash the other 3, catching one of ours, and even that may not be enough. The 4-1 trump split could mean the 3 big ones are his only tricks, and with the top 3 Jacks probably in one hand, 4-1 or even 5-0 is quite likely. As the cards lie, we win by giving him his 3 tricks, allowing him to capture a big one and not giving up any Ks or Qs, but we can't know that at the start.