Throw losers, keep winners
On this deal from the 2016 Southeastern Regional, a defender had to shun the adage, “Keep winners, throw losers.” You hold:
♠ Q 10 9 4 ♥ A 10 5 ♦ A 9 2 ♣ K 8 3
Partner opens 1♣ and you respond 1♠. Opener raises to 2♠ and you reasonably suggest 3NT as a contract. All pass and West leads the ♥2.
Thank goodness the contract isn’t 4♠. That contract appears to have at least four losers. In 3NT, with the heart lead, you are sure to get two heart tricks. You also have two diamond tricks and can build a club trick. If the spade finesse is on, you have nine tricks. Dummy plays low and East plays the ♥9. You win the 10 and try the spade finesse, which loses. Back comes the ♥6. Now what?
With only three spade tricks, you need an extra trick. Unless the ♣A is singleton or doubleton, there appears to be no hope. However, there’s a good way to succeed as long as the opening leader had the ♣A. Do you see it? From the fourth-best lead of the ♥2, you expect the opening leader started with only four hearts. So …
Win the heart return with the ace and cash all the spades ending in your hand. That will leave:
So, where is the extra trick? Well, West is down to seven cards. He has the ♥K and a heart winner. What are his other five cards? As long as he has the ♣A, you just have to guess what he has left.
Let’s say you think he came down to a doubleton ♣A. Then you get your ninth trick by leading a low club toward dummy’s queen; if West takes the ace, good, and if he ducks, your queen wins and you duck the next club. More likely, West would keep three clubs headed by the ace. But that means he has room to keep only two diamonds. If you judge that to be the position, you cash the two high diamonds and exit in hearts. West can take his hearts, but then has to lead from the ♣A. You win the king in hand and later the queen in dummy. This was the Real Deal:
Declarer won the ♥10, lost the spade finesse and then won the heart return. What was West to keep when declarer ran spades? If he throws a diamond, declarer takes the ♦A K and tosses him with the hearts to break clubs. If West throws a club, declarer can play a club from hand to make the contract.
The last laugh is in the title of the article. On the fourth spade, West has to throw a heart winner! Yes, if he throws his low heart, declarer can’t make the contract. It is pretty rare that you throw a winner and keep a loser, but that was the winning defense on this Real Deal.