Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Did Partner Played the Spots that He Did In that Order

Today’s hand has the simplest auction one could have short of a pass out but it presents a few crucial defensive signaling situations that can be quite nebulous. I was west in this deal last night at the local club and at first I blamed allowing them to make 5 on a system failure. My partner and I were playing upside-down count and attitude and odd/even discards. I have modified the deal very slightly so as to not allow declarer a chance to make more than 2 on best defense but this deal just as well illustrates the defensive points I want to make. In retrospect, my partner should have figured out the situation.

As you can see, NS should make 4 clubs without any trouble: 6 , 1 spade, 2 via 2 finesses, and 1 ruff (or possibly 1 and 2 ruffs). In notrump, there are 8 tricks once the defense plays 3 rounds of hearts. West leads 4th best , east wins the K and continues with the 3, top from a remaining doubleton. South splits the honors, west wins and leads the 9 back to declarer’s Q.

Put yourself in east’s position now. Clearly you are not defeating 1NT but it’s matchpoints so minimizing the overtricks could be very important, especially since many people will be in clubs. You can make several valid assumptions from the defense so far. Partner started with 5 hearts and must have the 8 as well. If he did not have the 8, he would duck trick 2 and wait for you to regain the lead and lead through declarer’s Q8 into his A9x. Another assumption you can reasonably make is that partner has a sure entry, for if he didn’t, even with this heart holding, he would duck trick 2 so you would have another heart to lead when you get in. Now that we have that figured out, what is partner’s sure entry? He could have led back the 8 or the 9 at trick 3, so the 9 must suggest a spade entry.

Okay, so how do we discard on the run of the clubs? Dummy has pitched a diamond and a spade on the hearts so far. We can safely dump a diamond, but then we see partner discard the 9. Playing odd/even, this should be encouraging for diamonds. Do we believe this signal or the signal on the 3rd round of hearts? What do we pitch on the next club? We can probably safely let go of one spade and maybe partner’s and declarer’s next discard will clear things up. Sure enough, declarer dumps a low spade and partner the 5. What is partner trying to signal? Do you think the supposed suit preference at trick 3 was really a signal or was partner merely playing top from a sequence? The bidding marks declarer with only 5-7 points in the pointed suits, meaning partner must have one of the aces.

I think this hand might convince me to give up odd/even discards. It’s totally not consistent with upside-down count and attitude, so it’s one signal stuck in the middle of a hand that doesn’t really flow with the rest of one’s signals, not to mention not being able to find an appropriate card sometimes. At least if you’re playing upside-down attitude discards, you could discard the 8 and then the 10 and that would clarify that the 8 was low. Lavinthal is a discard method I kind of like as well. There’s no possible confusion, except maybe in the suit preference part of it. At least in a case like this, whichever diamond west discards first tells partner he has the spade ace. In odd/even, does discarding an odd card in a suit followed by another odd card in the same suit cancel the first odd discard in an attempt to say, “sorry, partner, I didn’t have an even card to discard so maybe 2 odds make an even.” Would it make more sense to discard the 8 and 10 first in an attempt to say “Sorry, partner, I don’t have an even spade, but maybe 2 evens will make an odd.” No, 8 + 10 = 18, which is still even, but 9 + 5 = 14, which is even.

Discarding the Q first might get the message across that west doesn’t have the ace, but that gives declarer the option of a finesse for a 9th trick. Yet another way to think about the hand is that west will not mind blanking his ace, whichever suit it is, but might need to keep several cards in the other suit (his Jxx or Qxx might prevent a 3rd or 4th overtrick), so the suit he discards first should be the suit he has the ace in. This line of thinking is a bit far-fetched to me, but it’s a possibility.

Anyway, at the table, my partner believed my diamond discards more than the heart signal so he ditched all of his diamonds on the clubs expecting me to have the A or even AQ of diamonds and declarer wound up taking 4 diamond tricks. He came down to Q95 and K while I had A, 84, Q and declarer still had AJT5. Making 5 for -210 and zero matchpoints. There’s so much to potentially think about on defense and it’s good if you and your partner think along the same lines and know what signal to expect from each other.

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