Hearts Hand

Discussion of hands from past BSkA tournaments (or other events) and how they were bid and played. Skat problems. General discussion of strategy and tactics.

Hearts Hand

Postby John McLeod » Mon Dec 01, 2014 1:20 pm

In Vorhand you hold
J: C S
C: A 8
S: A 7
H: 9 8 7
D: 9
Mittelhand bids up to 33, which you pass, and plays Hearts Hand. What will you lead and what is your plan for the defence?

You can assume that Mittelhand has the other six trumps.

Michael W was Vorhand at our table and Beate played the contract. I was Michael's partner, sitting in Hinterhand. Beate made the contract but Michael thought that with this trump distribution we should have been able to defeat her. It's possible but not easy.
John McLeod
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Re: Hearts Hand

Postby Patrick Phair » Sun Dec 07, 2014 12:24 am

Looking at this without checking the full hand, I would expect Mittelhand to hold something like

C: -
S: -

or (b)
S: -
D: -

or (c)
S: -
D: A

Similar hands to (b) and (c) are possible with spades instead of clubs.

It is hard to see how Vorhand can bring home a black ace if Mittelhand is void in that suit. If he leads one against (a) Mittelhand will take with HA and probably lead a trump (not knowing about the break). Assuming Hinterhand plays a valuable card Vorhand will take this trick. Vorhand can then continue with the small card in the same suit, though that would lose if Mittelhand unexpectedly has a losing singleton somewhere. Mittelhand will ruff with HT to get it home, and now will lead diamonds from the top. Even though Vorhand has more trumps than Mittelhand he can't draw trumps, and Mittelhand will go on leading diamonds every time he gets in.

With (a) Mittelhand can expect to win all the aces and HT for 54 points, and he will also have to bring in two of HJ, DJ, HK and HQ. There may also be a king or queen in the skat.

With (c) Mittelhand is in a similar position if Vorhand attacks with CA, but if he chooses SA instead Vorhand may duck the first club lead and eventually ruff CT.

(b) is a weaker hand on which Hinterhand may have three ten-cards to try to bring home.

I think that in the real world I would lead one of the black aces, though after a lot of thought other options (underleading one, or leading a diamond or a small trump) may well turn out better.

Looking now at the actual hand (session 2 hand 21) I see that Mittelhand had less than I quoted above: hand (c) with D7 instead of CQ. It looks as though a small red lead works best for the defence. This forces declarer to reveal something by her line of play, but if she plays DA followed by D7 Vorhand has to guess which ace to throw, or if declarer leads HJ and Hinterhand drops ST (as seems reasonable) the defence still isn't obvious.

I was Vorhand and held a bid of 30, wrongly it turned out because Mittelhand stopped and I went off in hearts with the 6-0 break. The scoresheet suggested that Michael was prepared to play something higher, since Beate had to bid to 40 to win the hand. If his intention was Hearts hand he was lucky to be outbid -- the skat was C7 and DK, so not much help but enough to enable the declarer at the third table to make.

Patrick Phair
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Re: Hearts Hand

Postby Mike Tobias » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:41 pm

This looks a great defensive hand, but when you look at possible holdings, it's not so good. My partner probably holds no more than two big ones: DA is unlikely, so my top trumps can win partner's tens, but if he does have DA, then declarer probably holds 10,K twice or 10,k,Q,x of a suit (in which case partner may have three big ones).

Like Patrick, I'd probably lead an Ace on the day to weaken trumps or win a trick, or maybe a top trump to get a clue for my next lead from partner, but after thinking about possible holdings, leading low and throwing the lead to declarer may be the best chance of getting our big ones home, and maybe capturing a black 10 from a 10,K holding. So, a low lead, and I think I'd go for the Diamond, and then maybe underlead a black Ace after getting the lead back.
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Re: Hearts Hand

Postby John McLeod » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:59 am

I'm sure I would also have led a black ace and it's certainly wrong. As the cards lie if you lead the wrong ace declarer trumps and you can no longer beat the contract, and if you lead the right ace you have only put off the problem of what to lead next. Note also that the declarer is very likely to lead trumps, so you will get the lead twice more with your jacks. Underleading a black ace does not seem to achieve anything useful either, and it's a disaster if declarer has a singleton ten in that suit (not impossible in a hand game). So as I see it, in the end you have only two good options: lead trumps yourself or lead your singleton diamond.

As the cards lay in the tournament, the key to defeating the contract was eventually to discard a black ace on partner's 10 of diamonds - declarer had Ax of diamonds. If all your trumps are gone before the diamonds are attacked, then declarer can safely duck the first round of diamonds and you won't get the discard. Therefore the strategy of leading trumps does not work either, at least not if you carry it on until your are out of trumps.

Vorhand's best lead, which I would certainly not have thought of, seems to be the diamond. You'll have to lead it eventually so why not straight away? If the declarer ducks you will ruff out his ace when your partner returns the suit. Therefore declarer must play his ace. Now as Patrick points out, declarer's best shot is to return a low diamond immediately, so that you have a 50/50 guess which black ace to discard on partner's 10. But I think declarer is unlikely to do that on trick two. Probably the declarer will lead a trump, and then partner's discards will help you to decide which ace to save when the time comes.

Interestingly, catching the deaclarer's ace or ten of trumps, though it is possible and Michael did it, does not help to defeat the contract.

I have tried various other distributions of the cards, and I could not find any plausible deal where starting with the singleton diamond is wrong.
John McLeod
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