Beautiful Board Badly Bid

This was board 4 at the Malanda club on Monday 12th January. At all tables N/S played in a spade game.  Only one pair bid the small slam.  That was Sue Hosie and Mary Lilley who went on to win the day's event for N/S.

My partner Bjørg Risla brought this board to my attention as an example of how not to bid.  She was right.  Bidding is not my strength.



K 10 9 8 4
J 6 5 4
A Q 6
A

J 7
10 3
K 9 7
Q J 10 7 6 5

N

W

E

S

6 2
K Q 8 7 2
10 8 2
9 8 2

A Q 5 3
A 9
J 5 4 3
K 4 3


After my 1♠ opening, Bjørg's 2NT response was Jacoby.  I should have started cue-bidding and we would have reached the six level easily.  Instead of doing that I bid 3 in case she had a four card heart suit.  My thinking was that if her 2NT was based on something like ♠ A Q 5 3 A K 9 7 J 3 ♣ 4 3 then playing in hearts would be significantly better.  However that is a subject for another article and my failure to cue bid cost us matchpoints.  (It would have been worse at IMP scoring.)

All that aside, the hand is very interesting as an exercise in dummy play.

From the comfort of my living room and with the benefit of seeing the entire deal I imagined how I would have played the hand if I had been declarer in 6♠.  Obviously twelve tricks are available as the cards lie with K on-side. That is only a 50-50 chance. Without relying on the diamond finesse, 11 tricks are available via 5 spades, a heart and two heart ruffs, a diamond and two clubs.  Can anything be done if the diamond finesse fails?

For the sake of this discussion, let us pretend that East holds K. In the diagram below I swapped K and 10.

At five of the six tables the opening lead was a heart.  Twice it was K and three times it was 7.  At furs glance 7 seems like a dreadful lead.  If declarer is brave enough to let it run then he has his twelfth trick immediately.  There is no way I would have done that for I would never have believed that anyone would underlead KQ against a small slam.  I would have put up the A immediately.  A club to the Ace, a trump back to dummy, ♣K discarding a diamond, ruff a club then ♠K would yield this position:



10 9
J 6 5
A Q



10
10 9 7
Q J 10

N

W

E

S


K Q 8 2
K 8 2


Q 5
9
J 5 4 3


Now a lead towards the 9 puts East to a serious test.  East would have to be very courageous to duck hoping that West holds 10 but if she does precisely that then the slam is doomed on a diamond return.  East is much more likely to play Q but then she is endplayed, having to lead away from one of the red kings.

Remember that I said 7 looked like a horrible opening lead?  Well it certainly has deceptive value.  That endplay would have been much easier to find on the lead of  K because it would pinpoint the other heart honour.

For what it is worth, this is exactly how the play went at our table but we were only in 4♠ and the diamond finesse was working anyway so the endplay was useless.  And I certainly did not give the matter all this thought.