Make 12 tricks in 3NT

This deal came up in the matchpoint pairs event in the recently concluded HCL tournament. 

 
None
N
North
AQ953
K
K1062
AK9
 
W
West
 
E
East
 
S
South
J6
AJ2
AJ83
Q1087
 

 Plan the play to score 12 tricks when the opening lead is:
 a)  5
 b)  8 (ducked to your Jack, East encouraging).

My partner Raghu Rajkumar declared this hand in 3NT with the opening lead of 5. He played a spade to the jack at trick two, which held the trick (if the  J lost to the king, he would have tried for four spade winners and taken it from there).  Raghu switched tack now, and played the A and a diamond to the 10, RHO discarding a spade. He cashed the top clubs, finding the suit to be 3-3, and cashed the thirteenth club, LHO discarding a heart. Now Raghu played a spade to the ace, cashed the other diamond honour and exited with a diamond. LHO won the trick and had to play a heart, conceding the last two tricks to declarer’s AJ. 

Edit: On the second round of diamonds, RHO discarded a heart and not a spade.

The full deal: 

 
None
N
North
AQ953
K
K1062
AK9
 
W
West
82
9765
Q974
J43
 
E
East
K1074
Q10843
5
652
 
S
South
J6
AJ2
AJ83
Q1087
 

 On the lead of the  8 ducked to the jack, I believe it is better to play A and a diamond to the ten. If it loses to the queen, you now have 11 tricks, and the count is rectified for a major suit against East. Even if West shows out on the second diamond and East ducks the 10, you concede a diamond to East to rectify the count, and play for the squeeze. 

Edit: When West shows out on the second diamond, the above analysis is not correct, see Sandeep Thakral’s comment for (what I believe to be) is the correct analysis.

This is the end position:

 
None
N
North
AQ9
 
W
West
2
97
 
E
East
K10
Q
 
S
South
6
J
10
 

 When you play the 10, East is squeezed between spades and hearts. 

 Note that if you play K and a diamond to the jack, West can play a spade to break up the squeeze. 

 

4 thoughts on “Make 12 tricks in 3NT

  • Profile gravatar of admin
    September 19, 2017 at 2:51 AM
    Permalink

    Umm, if west were to show out on 2nd diamond, and you are placing 4 spades and 3 clubs with East, that would leave room only for two hearts. In that case it would be better to cash heart ace, all the clubs, and then put East in with 4th Diamond for a spade endplay. Ofcourse that would not work if he started with 3 hearts and 3 spades, but perhaps you can wait for him to discard on the 4th club before cashing HA. If he pitches a heart, it’s safe to cash HA, if a spade, you might want to test spade ace before deciding about Heart. So go back a step, and play D to T and assume it holds. You still don’t know who holds long diamonds, but you have communication in diamonds. Since the endplay is available in diamond as well as heart, surely cashing SA can’t hurt, so cash it. Now cash four clubs – both opponents are forced to discard a heart. If west discards a spade and it’s not the king, he either started with 4 diamonds, in which case you’d play D to king, see west show out, and simply finesse the DJ. if West follows and east shows out, west can be just as easily put in with 4th D for heart endplay) . You don’t have a working endplay if S are 3-3 anyway.

  • Profile gravatar of Karthik
    September 19, 2017 at 11:34 AM
    Permalink

    Just my thoughts. Since dummy has taken no discards, once spade is discarded, since one intends to cash the spade ace along the way and diamond is always available to reach dummy,why not play off spade ace? When the suit is 4-2, given the discard of spade has happened on the second diamond, you can raise 4 spades, 3 clubs,3 diamonds, 2 hearts, the easy way. What is the downside? Doesn’t look fancy (no throw-in), but is stronger line surely since all the winners Raghu cash, I also cash with this approach?

    • Profile gravatar of Prahalad Rajkumar
      September 19, 2017 at 4:18 PM
      Permalink

      My apologies, RHO discarded a heart and not a spade on the second round of diamond (edited the article to reflect this).

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