Seeing through cards #27

Oren Lidor
Seeing through the cards with Oren Lidor

Knowing how to ask the right questions and answer them is key to improving your chances on any bridge hand, be it as declarer or as defender.

I’ll give you a hand along with a series of questions. First, try to answer them yourself, and then take a look at the answers.

At the end I’ll summarize the important things to remember. I hope you enjoy the challenge!

Dealer South, Non Vulnerable

Against 6♠ West led the ♠6 and East followed with the ♠3.

  1. How many losers do you have?
  2. What would be your normal line of play if you got another lead?
  3. Why should this lead make you change your plan? 
  4. How will you play?

  1. How many losers do you have?
    3 Diamond losers (or 10 tricks : 5 Spades, 2 Hearts, 1 Diamond and 2 Clubs).

  2. What would be your normal line of play if you got another lead?
    A normal play would be to ruff 2 Diamond losers in dummy as each ruff from the short hand is 1 more trump trick and 1 less Diamond loser. 2 ruffs = 7 Spade tricks = 1 Diamond loser.

  3. Why should this lead make changes to your plan?
    This plan results in losing the hand in Diamonds. When this happens your opponent will play another trump. With 1 more trump remaining, you will be unable to ruff 2 Diamond losers.

  4. How will you play?
    Sometimes it is better to ruff in the long hand rather than short. Especially if you have enough entries for the operation AND you can do it without losing the hand to your opponents. So, count the losers from the dummy (= as if dummy is the long hand): 2 Clubs, 1 Diamond, 2 Hearts = 5 losers. Plan: Ruff ALL minor losers in hand and reverse the dummy. To ruff 4 times, you need 4 entries to hand. You have them, but you need perfect timing: Win the Spade lead in hand, play AK, ruff a Heart, then Club to the ♣K, ruff 4th Heart, Club to the ♣A, ruff 3rd Club, Diamond to the A and ruff 4th Club in hand. You just made your 10th trick and your remaining ♠K10 will make 2 more.

Things to remember

1) When you see the dummy, you need to count. You can count either tricks or losers (or both). In this case it’s easy to count both: 10 tricks (5 Spades, 2 Hearts, 2 Clubs, 1 Diamond) or 3 losers (you always count losers from 1 hand and it’s best to count from the long trump hand – here there are just 3 Diamond losers). So, your normal plan would be to try to ruff your losers in the short hand. Here, you would normally play to give 1 Diamond away and then ruff 2 Diamonds from dummy. Each Diamond you ruff in dummy is an extra trump trick (as you counted trumps from your long hand, each ruff from the SHORT hand is an additional trick to the untouched trumps you still have in hand), and 1 less Diamond loser. So normally you will go for 2 Diamond ruffs in dummy to make 12 tricks.

2) However, when it’s not possible to ruff from the short hand (as is the case here – once you lose the 2nd Diamond trick, your opponents will play another trump meaning you can no longer ruff twice in dummy) you need to check the option of ruffing from the long hand. It would seem easiest here to make 7 trump tricks by ruffing 2 Diamonds in dummy, then 5 tricks in hand. But it is also possible to make 7 trump tricks by ruffing 4 times in hand then making 3 trumps in dummy. This technique is called DUMMY REVERSAL” – you choose to ruff from the LONG hand until the short hand turns long.

Another example:

You are playing 6♠ and you got a Heart lead. You have 11 tricks. Ruffing in dummy for 12th trick is impossible. You can make 12 tricks though via dummy reversal (assuming Spades are 3-2) : A, Heart ruff, Club to ♣A, Club ruff. Spade to the ♠10, Last Heart ruff with the ♠A, then Spade to dummy’s ♠KJ , and finally 4 more Diamond tricks, discarding 1 Club from hand.

3) 4th suit forcing is game forcing. When you bid the 4th suit you tell your partner that ‘we don’t stop (at least) before game’ and you ask him to continue to describe his hand according to the following priorities:
a. Bid your (responder’s) suit with 3 cards
b. Bid NT with stopper in the 4th suit
c. Rebid 1 of his other suits.
So.. The 2NT bid on the bidding above showed a Heart stopper and denied 3 cards in Hearts.

4) In ANY game forcing sequence – eg after 2/1, after a 2♣ opening, after a jump shift, or after 4th suit forcing (like the bidding above), bidding a direct game will show no game interest. Showing a fit on a lower level will be a slam interest and indicate to your partner to start with control bidding. In the hand above, the 3♠ bid showed a slam interest (as the sequence was game forcing). To invite for game, the responder should have bid 3♠ directly after 1♠ opening (if playing natural) or bid 1NT and then rebid 3♠ if playing 2/1 (1NT forcing), and not bid via 4th suit forcing.

5) Whenever we’re sure to reach a game, but on the way we bid another suit, we show controls (1st control is ace or void, 2nd control is King or singleton). Controls we show “up the line”, meaning we start showing it with the cheapest bid we can, and continue showing them. When we skip a suit – we DENY a control in that suit. So if we skip a suit and our partner keeps on with the control bidding, he is showing not only a control on his bidden suit, but also a control in the suit we skipped. If he also doesn’t have a control there – then he should settle by bidding just a game, as it is clear that opponents have AK to cash in that suit, therefore, no slam. So, on the hand above, the 4 bid showed a control in Heart and DENIED controls in Club and Diamond.

6) Sometimes you can count losers during bidding. The dealer showed 5-4 in Spades and Diamonds. Therefore he has a maximum of 4 cards in Clubs and Hearts. Since all 5 key cards are in, Responder can count no Club or Heart losers, having ♣AK and AK, and hoping declarer loses no more than 1 Diamond via ruffs in dummy (or dummy reversal..)