The Heart of the Matter
This year featured my 42nd consecutive appearance
at the Chico Sectional, which was delightful as always. Those folks have
the best hospitality to be found anywhere! In fact, I won my
first-ever Sectional event in the single-session Board-A-Match
Teams at that tournament, in April of 1966. My brother and I had endured a
four-hour blizzard all the way from Reno, and at night we threw down our
sleeping bags in Upper Bidwell Park — back when that sort of activity
still was legal. Between sessions on Saturday, players were treated to a dinner
replete with Cornish game hens; I ate three!
This year your usual gang is trying for a third straight win in the Sunday
Swiss Teams. Against your principal
four gentlemen would-be spoilers from Sacramento —
you find yourself in 3NT as South with this heart suit:
As is best overall, you try a low heart to dummy's jack; west plays the
seven-spot and east contributes the deuce. Needing not to lose a heart
trick, what is your next play in that suit, and why? There has been no bidding
to help you, no clues have accrued in the play, and First Overall in the event rides
upon your decision!
Skip ahead with me for a moment to the very next match, in which a remarkably similar situation arose for declarer:
South was declarer in
4♥. She led a low trump to the
queen, as west played the four-spot and east followed with the seven.
How should she have continued at this juncture?
Now that you have decided, let us return to the first hand. Having done
your reading about such card combinations, you are aware that a knowledgeable east
player always would play his middle card from
10-x-x in this situation,
attempting to make it look as if declarer might be able to smother the
by leading the queen on the second round. That would be the only way for the
defense to win a trick in the suit.
At your table, RHO did not play his middle card. Judging that he
certainly should know the deceptive play, you subsequently advance the queen
from hand and luckily smother your RHO's
ten-spot, thereby fulfilling your
contract and winning the match by six imp.
In the next match, our declarer might not have been keeping up with her
studies. In any case, she returned to hand, led the trump jack,
and — left-hand opponent showed out!
A pair of heart losers cost her the contract.
In this case, declarer could have afforded a single loser in trumps; she would
well-advised to take one of those book-learned safety plays
on the second round of hearts, by leading low from dummy toward the jack, or (better)
low from hand toward dummy's nine-spot, going up with the ace when if
shows out. This would have guaranteed no more than one loser in trumps.
Sitting east, I had been waiting more than forty years for that coup, which is right
Chapter 12 of the quintessential classic on defensive strategy —
Master Play, by Terence Reese. It seems somehow
fitting that I had read that book just after it first was published —
in that memorable year, 1966.