Play With an Expert Pairs SABA January 2017 Part I

January 7, 2017 at 8:54 pm 7 comments

While we were waiting for play to start in the Play with an Expert Pairs, in which all the experts sit either South or North, one of the South players at another table called over to us that we were sitting in the wrong seats, that my partner Judy Zollo should be sitting South, and even when she demurred, this player continued to insist that we were wrong.

So, although I don’t often blow my own trumpet…My name is Cathy Chua, you will see in the SABA clubs rooms my name on various boards including an Open Interstate Team. I have played on Open Interstate teams for Victoria and NSW as well, winning for both States. I’ve also won the GNOT. My best in the ANOT, the VCC and the NOT is second in all of them. For some years I played high stakes rubber bridge full time. I have taught bridge on a one to one basis, and have also done a lot of writing: bulletins at national and international level, books, articles for magazines around the world and, from time to time the blog you are reading.

To cut the story short, although Judy is no novice (no doubt giving us an advantage on the day), she will forgive my saying that of the two of us, she is closer to that category than am I!

A few things came up during the Pairs which are worth talking about. In this post I want to mention a play and the idea behind it. You are playing in 4H:


s —
h1 J10862
d1 KJ832
c A62

1st in hand RHO has opened 1NT. LHO begins with the C10. When you get to the diamond suit, which you want to play for no loser, you play the ace, and then on the next round, RHO plays the ten. What now?

Board 7
Dlr South
Vul All









I opened 1NT on account of having a balanced 12-14 – add a point for the potential of the spade suit. Angela Norris overcalled a practical 2H which her partner Jan raised to four. Judy began with a club, though it makes no difference what she starts with. When declarer turned her attention to diamonds, I was feeling really good about my choice of opening – diamond ace and then diamond towards hand. Surely she will finesse my queen of diamonds and partner will win it and we’ll get a top and really, isn’t bridge just too easy.

But in fact, a short consideration of the evidence by declarer led her to the right play. If my partner had began life with a singleton diamond, surely she would have led it. Therefore she had two. Therefore the king of diamonds dropping the queen was the right play.

A well-deserved 13/16 MPs for declarer or 81%.

There are three steps to deciding what to do on this hand, but I suspect a lot of people would stop after two.

First thought: all things being equal, you play the ace and then king assuming they all follow.

Second thought: things are not equal. RHO has opened 1NT. That increases the likelihood of the DQ being onside, thus making the finesse the correct choice when RHO follows low to the second diamond.

Third thought: this fits for constructing a picture of one defender’s hand, but what about the other? Does it fit that too?

My BOLS tip? Don’t just construct one of the opponents’ hands, construct both of them.

It’s all too easy to build a picture of one hand and act on it, the narrative in this case is very convincing, RHO has opened 1N, the odds are that she holds the DQ. But taking the next step, constructing the hand opposite to see if the evidence still fits the theory, is hard, maybe because it’s more work, maybe because you already have a story that seems to work.

For more details of the board, such as how each pair went on it, go here.

As for the opening bid of 1NT, which some may find alarming, more on this in my next post on Play With an Expert Pairs.


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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Depasquale  |  August 31, 2017 at 1:20 am

    I don’t think it would occur to any serious bridge player to lead a singleton diamond from any 2 or 3 card trump holding that includes one or both missing honours. [You can be sure that the opening leader has 2-3 trumps in view of the (in my view, dubious) 1 NT opening, as with two red singletons in the hand on opening lead you would be unlikely to be declarer at all in 4 H. The singleton diamond might be worth a try if opening leader is looking at 3 small trumps.] It is easy to demonstrate that such a lead will cost a trick about 4 times as often as it will gain one. Many times you are simply converting a natural trump trick to a ruff, while giving declarer a free finesse at trick 1. Unless there is clear evidence that declarer has a side suit to run, whenever the opponents are at the 4 level and you know your side has at least half the HCP in the deck the automatic lead is a trump. Here you have (semi-)/stoppers in all four suits AND your partner opened the bidding 1 NT! It is extremely unlikely the opponents can make ten tricks without a meaningful number of ruffs. On this occasion, if declarer is also expert enough to know that the trump lead is automatic Declarer will likely finesse in diamonds for all the obvious reasons you gave.

    • 2. cathyc  |  August 31, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      I have another BOLS bridge tip. Never argue with siblings 🙂

  • 3. Khokan Bagchi  |  February 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I’m not sure about the dummy reversal line in 4H on a spade lead on the actual layout. As long as west plays the HQ on the first heart, EW can either draw trumps or declarer is forced.

    • 4. cathyc  |  February 9, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      That’s cunning. Holds it to ten I guess.

      • 5. Khokan Bagchi  |  February 9, 2017 at 9:14 pm

        On reflection, I think you’re right that twelve tricks can always be made on a spade lead if the trumps are 3-2 and honours are split.

        On the actual layout, declarer can ruff a club in dummy. If north has honour-third in trumps, declarer ruffs the spade and leads the HJ, which north must duck – otherwise declarer can ruff a club and draw trumps. Declarer now has the entries – DA and CK – to ruff two more spades in hand and draw trumps.

  • 6. Khokan Bagchi  |  February 8, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    It’s good to see you playing again, Cathy.

    EW really won the board through the auction, rather than the play.

    It seems to me that declarer can, and should, make twelve tricks by finessing hearts and ruffing a club, so it might have been worse for you!

    • 7. cathyc  |  February 9, 2017 at 7:40 am

      Khokan, I didn’t want to go into the way declarer played the whole hand, it was a bit of a mess.

      Curiously, it seems to me that although a spade might look like the better start, it makes a dummy reversal possible and then declarer will make with Hxx as well as Hx in LHO’s hand, whereas on the club lead, you need Hx.


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