Justifying partner’s faith
This deal comes from my newest source for material – an online money game. With both sides vulnerable, IMP scoring, I held:
♠ J 6 5 ♥ Q 10 5 2 ♦ A Q 6 ♣ A 9 7
I dealt and opened 1♣ and partner responded 1♠. I rebid 1NT and he raised to 3NT. Left-hand opponent led the ♥6 and I saw:
Partner has taken the high road with his 11 high-card points facing, potentially, a 12-point hand. No doubt he loved the club fit and source of tricks. Now he has put his faith in you.
You have only five top tricks – three diamonds and two clubs. RHO wins the ♥K and returns the ♥J. That gives you a heart trick to get up to six tricks. What is the plan? If you play the ♥Q, LHO wins the ace and plays another heart. Should you work on clubs or spades?
Those who know me will recognize the trick question. If you cover the ♥J, you are on your way to down one. Why shouldn’t you cover?
First of all, can we agree that working on clubs is the wrong plan? Barring a miracle in that suit, you will have to give up a club trick. The defense will have a club, the ♠A and at least three heart tricks, even if they are 4–4. So, you will have to work on spades.
Once you knock out the ♠A, you will have three spades to go with three diamonds, two clubs and the heart trick. The danger is that the defense takes four heart tricks and the ♠A.
If hearts are 4–4, you will have no trouble. If, however, opening leader has five hearts and the ♠A, you have no chance. What if hearts are 5–3 and RHO has the ♠A? When you cover the ♥J, LHO will duck! When RHO gets in with the ♠A, he will play another heart through you. Can you prevent this?
Yes! Don’t cover with your ♥Q at trick two. Now what? East plays another heart; for all he knows, his partner started with ♥A 10 x x x, and West wins. Look at the full deal:
As you can see, covering the heart leads to defeat. West can duck and then what? East gets in with the ♠A to play his final heart through you. You lose four hearts and a spade for down one. If you don’t cover the ♥J, you are home free. The defense gets only three hearts and a spade. You have justified your partner’s optimistic jump to 3NT.