Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Duplicate bridge fans are well aware of the importance of overtricks but sometimes you need to be in the correct contract before those additional tricks can materialize. In this month’s hand, South opened 1 spade with 17 high card points. North responded 1 no trump which in their system was forcing for 1 round – he was intending to jump in spades at his next opportunity to show 10 to 12 points with 3-card spade support.
However, when South switched to hearts with his second bid, North also changed plans and raised to 3 hearts and South was happy to continue on to the heart game. West led the 3 of hearts, as a trump lead is often effective when declarer’s second suit is trumps and the defence would like to cut down on any potential ruffs in dummy. In this particular deal it wasn’t a substantial factor as the North hand was a flat as the proverbial pancake.
The declarer was pleased to note that the contract did not appear to be in any danger provided there were no very bad splits in the opponents’ holdings so he looked around for any potential overtricks. But first things first he would need to check how the trumps were divided. Winning the opening lead in hand with the ace he crossed to the king in dummy and was gratified that the trump split was the best possible from his point of view – 3-2.
Drawing the last trump with dummy’s jack, declarer rattled off 5 spade tricks while pitching the club 7 and the diamond 3 on the last two. He now played a club towards the dummy and called for the queen which held the trick. He then cashed the club ace and conceded a low diamond to the opponents for what turned out to be their only trick as he could ruff his last club in the dummy and his last diamond in hand. 4 hearts making twelve tricks for 480 points turned out to be a very good match-point result for this pair as there were many other pairs making only eleven tricks for 450 points.
How can that be, you ask? Surely this declarer’s play was good but not outstanding? That is correct but the big difference was that most of the other partnerships played in 4 spades after the same bidding start and there are only 11 tricks available in a spade contract. There is a long-standing theory in bridge that, in most cases, it is better to play in a 4-4 trump fit rather than a 5-3 fit and this hand lives up to that standard in spades (sorry, in hearts!)
Take a look at the hand diagram again and imagine you are in 4 spades and let’s say you get a trump lead, though that doesn’t really matter. You can draw trumps and take the club finesse just as the other declarer did but you will have to lose another club trick as you have nowhere to park the 7.
So if you add this principle to your bridge lexicon you will get better results if you can apply it at the table. But be sure to let your partner in on your secret!