The good 9
This deal from the 2012 Blue Ribbon Pairs was reported to me by three different participants! I think the most interesting problem was East’s in this variation. East holds:.
♠A Q J 8 7 4 ♥8 ♦Q J ♣K J 9 7
Declarer opens 1♥ on your left and North responds 1NT, forcing. Assume you overcall 2♠ and hear left-hand opponent jump to 4♥. North now raises to 5♥. What’s that?
Usually, a raise to five of a major in an auction where the opponents have bid, asks for a control in their suit. Indeed, declarer carries on to 6♥, typically indicating second-round spade control. With first-round control, he should try for 7♥, by making some other call.
Partner leads the ♠10, covered by the king and your ace. Declarer plays the ♠3. Over to you.
With two spade losers, declarer would have passed the invitational 5♥ bid. So it would be insulting to try another high spade (maybe some opponents deserve to be insulted, but this was the Blue Ribbon Pairs). Would partner have led the ♠10 from ♠10 9 6? Probably so.
What switch makes sense? If declarer has the ♦K, that gives him two diamonds and one club, and he would need nine heart tricks to make his contract. If that is the case, nothing you do matters.
What if declarer has eight or fewer hearts? Then, he will need to do something with dummy’s diamonds. If declarer has ♦K 10 x, there isn’t much you can do about it. But what if he has only ♦K–x? A look at the full deal shows what the winning defense is:
Do you see it? If you play anything but a heart, the contract makes. Declarer can play the top diamonds and ruff a third round. Then, he goes to dummy’s ♥9 and plays a fourth diamond to ruff. That sets up the fifth diamond and declarer still has the ♣A to get back to dummy to pitch his losing club on the long diamond.
Your trump shift at trick two kills the entry prematurely. Now, declarer can’t set up and use dummy’s diamonds.
Incidentally, the play of the ♣K at trick two (to knock out dummy’s ace), is not a bad shot. Of course, it wouldn’t work on this layout, but it is possible to construct a deal where
it would be right. So, don’t feel bad if you tried the ♣K at trick two; it just wasn’t your day.
At one table, West led the ♠10, ducked all around. West now had to play a club at trick two. However, he continued spades, which allowed the contract to make (declarer set up dummy’s fifth diamond). Remarkably, a trump shift at trick two (with the ♠K still in dummy) is no good, either. Declarer can run trumps and catch East in a criss-cross, black-suit squeeze. But it’s not my style to get into such things in my intermediate-level bridge articles.