Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
The declarer play left something to be desired in this hand that was played at a club duplicate game. North’s opening bid of 2 diamonds was the Flannery Convention showing 4 spades and 5 hearts with 11 to 15 high card points. It was originally conceived to handle what was deemed to be an awkward holding. The theory was that if you opened 1 heart and partner bid 2 of a minor, you couldn’t show your spade suit without “reversing” the bidding and promising in the region of 16+ points.
The 2-over-1 game force system has led to a decline in Flannery’s popularity but it’s important to understand it if you do come across it at the bridge table
North’s opening bid was duly alerted by South and East chimed in with a bid of 3 diamonds, a natural call in this context. South had a minimum hand in terms of high card points but his excellent fit with partner’s majors persuaded him to jump all the way to game. He chose to play in spades rather than hearts as when the 4-4 fit is trumps the hand can sometimes produce more tricks than the 5-4.
West led the diamond 3, top of a doublet on in East’s suit and declarer played the 10 from dummy, which was won with the Queen. East got out with a small spade, won by West with the king to continue with her second diamond which was won in the dummy with the ace. Declarer now played a trump from the dummy, won by East who now played the diamond king hoping to promote a winner for his partner. It was not to be as South held the boss spades and now drew the last trump.
At this point South had lost 3 tricks and needed to bring home the heart suit without loss to make his contract. A firm believer in the “8 ever, 9 never” maxim (with a combined 8 cards in a suit you always finesse for a queen but with 9 cards you play for the drop), he now played a low heart to dummy’s king and cashed the ace only to discover that West had an established trick with the heart queen. So where did declarer go wrong? Primarily by not paying adequate attention to the opponents’ bidding and play. East had shown a six card diamond suit, meaning that West had only 2 cards in that suit. Therefore, there were 11 “vacant spaces” in West’s hand as opposed to only 7 in East’s, making it likely that West held more cards in any particular suit.
When trumps had been drawn, declarer should have played a small heart from his hand to dummy’s ace, in case there was a singleton queen lurking. When only small cards appeared he could have returned to his hand with the club ace and then played a heart to dummy’s jack. He would have been rewarded with a game bonus when the queen turned out to be with West.
Of course, there was no guarantee that finessing the heart jack would have worked but in the long run knowing the best percentage plays leads to success at bridge.