Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Boston at last!

Ray and I have arrived at the Boston Nationals on Thanksgiving Thursday, about the same time as many people have left.  Mostly we came at the end of the tournament (instead of the beginning) to pick up Mark Horton and his significant other, Liz, who are coming to our house for a visit.  Despite our late arrival there is always some excitement to be had whenever you arrive at a Nationals.  We grabbed a Daily Bulletin before heading to our room.  There on the cover was John Carruthers (the scourge of senior events and others) who had just won the Senioe Knockout as part of the Milner team with P.O. Sutherlin, Matt Granovetter, Fred Chang, Reese Milner and Sam Lev.  Congratulations to all.

On Page 3 was an article by Mark called “This could get to be a Habert” about a hand Rhoda Habert (my former team-mate) played while defending 7S.   Rhoda was great but Mark, your analysis was at best confusing.  So here is the hand starring Rhoda with my thoughts about it.

East was dealer with East-West vulnerable and Rhoda was sitting South.  Her side passed throughout.

North South
2C 2S
5H(1) 6C
6D 7S

5H was exclusion Blackwood.  and South showed two keycards with the spade queen.  6D was a grandslam try which South accepted.

Rhoda held:

S J6 
H AQ108
D K8
C 109432


What would you lead?  A spade lead is certainly safe.  The opponents must have the top three spades and you know the suit is breaking.  This is the normal lead against a grand slam, one that cannot be criticized.  But Rhoda chose a different path.  Let’s examine her choices.  Partner doesn’t have a club ruff or she would have doubled 7S (in fact she probably can’t trump anything).  It is hard to imagine any case where a heart lead is correct although declarer will not play you for underleading the ace!  Rhoda led a diamond.  She knew that North had the DA from the diamond cue bid and she knew that she had a surprise in clubs.  The DQ was not relevant.  Declarer would win the DA, no matter who held the DQ, and expect clubs to run.  So Rhoda lead the D8.  This is the whole deal.

  S Q73  
  H void  
  D AQJ76  
Rhoda C AQJ85  
S J6    S 92
H AQ108   H J96532
D K8   D 10542
C 109432   C 7
  S AK10854  
  H K74  
  D 93  
  C K6  

I am a simple player.  In a grand slam my heart beats a bit faster and even if sometimes I am lazy, in a grand slam I count my winners (or losers if you like).  On this hand I have six spade tricks, a diamond and five clubs if the suit is not 5-1.  A heart ruff will bring me to 13 tricks.  If I had to guess I would place Rhoda with the DK.  Why?  Why else would she  lead a diamond?  Mary Paul once told me that if you are missing the QJ of trumps and the opening lead is the trump J the opening leader always has the Q.  People always lead the jack from that holding with the hope with the hope that they may eventually score the Q.  The unsupported Jack is such an unattractive lead.  I think the diamond lead here is somewhat analogous.  It would be even more likely if North had bid diamonds strongly.  But I digress.

The normal way to play the hand is to ruff one round of hearts and then draw trumps.  The play might go spade to hand, ruff a heart, cash the SQ and return to your hand with the CK.  Now a careful declarer will not just claim but will run the trumps first arriving at this ending:

  S void  
  H void  
  D Q  
  C AQJ8  
  S 4  
  H K7  
  D 9  
  C 6  

You lead the last spade planning to throw a diamond from dummy if the DK doesn’t appear.

If clubs are breaking then you are home but if clubs are 5-1 and the hand with the long clubs has the HA then that hand is squeezed.  Also if Rhoda has the DK and the long clubs she will be squeezed even if she doesn’t hold the heart ace.  As it turns out Rhoda (who has everything) will be squeezed on the previous trick.   Forced to hold on to the DK and the HA she will have have to throw a club at trick 7.

At Rhoda’s table declarer won the DA and for some unfathomable reason tried to cash two clubs.  I can only deduce that despite being in a grand slam she failed to count her tricks.  For if two rounds of clubs cashed she had thirteen tricks anyway and if they didn’t, having a club ruffed at trick three is an embarrassing way to go down in a grand slam.  I like to wait until a later opportunity myself.  I have no idea what she was planning to do after cashing the clubs (other than claim perhaps?)

In the article, Mark says that on a passive lead declarer ruffs a heart and runs all the trumps and squeezes West in three suits.  Yes, that is true.  But this works after the diamond lead too, Mark.  As does a club-heart squeeze on either hand.  The play of the hand isn’t really affected by the lead, other than to plant the  idea that West is  more likely to hold the DK.

Good job Rhoda for finding this innovative lead and thanks, Mark,for writing the story in the Daily Bulletin.  I enjoyed it.

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