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Today's deal is from a match-point event, the players sitting east missing an opportunity for excelling in a defensive situation. See whether you can do better.
Contract: 4S by south. West leads the HK. Dummy plays the four. Plan your defence.
Bidding comment: South's 2H cue-bid shows limit raise or better in clubs. Since 1C can be short, this should suggest five clubs at least.
How the defence went: Most east encouraged with the nine. West continued with a second heart. Declarer ruffed and played the SQ from hand. East won and played a third heart, trying to promote a trump trick in partner's hand. Declarer ruffed with the jack, cashed S10, crossed to a club, drew the last trump, and claimed eleven tricks by pitching dummy's losers on the club winners in hand. The complete hands were:
A few defenders discouraged a heart continuation by playing the three at trick one, hoping west would shift to a diamond.
Unfortunately, west did not shift but continued with a second heart. Why? For one thing, west did not know east had six hearts. For another, they feared that by shifting to a diamond they may be playing into declarer's A-Q.
How should EW defend to stop the overtrick?
Winning defence: Since it is difficult to make west to shift to a diamond, east should overtake the heart king with the ace and shift to a diamond himself! West encourages and when east gets in with the trump ace, the defence can cash a diamond trick to hold the declarer to his ten tricks.
Discussion: What if declarer had started with a doubleton in hearts? Won't this defence set up the HQ as a winner and gift an undeserved trick to the declarer?
No. West will discourage when east shifts to a diamond. When east gets in with the ace of spades, he will play a heart for his partner to ruff. West will cash the DK subsequently to defeat the contract.
The overtaking play caters to both situations; of stopping the overtrick as well as defeating the contract. A real teaser, don't you think?
There will be occasions when you have to take control of the situation and do the right thing yourself, and not leave it to partner. You will certainly agree this is one such occasion. Tell me honestly, did the overtaking play occur to you?
R. Krishnan, about whom we had written in an earlier article, was the declarer at one table and he suggested this solution, immediately after the play was over. To find the solution for a difficult defensive problem, and as a declarer at that, is something that is possible only by a player of the highest calibre. That's why he is so special.
Play out the deal using a deck of cards and appreciate the beauty of the suggested solution.