The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Probably Right

with 4 comments

I’m playing a club game with Roxie. Last week we had a monstrous 70% game, but came in second overall against a pair that had nearly 75%. Playing against the same pair today, I pick up S: 6 H: K95 D: KT98 C: AJT98.

LHO opens a weak (11-14) 1 No Trump and LHO promptly bids 3 No Trump, ending the auction. Partner leads the spade deuce and dummy hits with

S: KT85 H: AJ8 D: xxx C: KQx

Looks like they missed a 4-4 spade fit, but spades aren’t breaking. I follow with the six and declarer wins with the seven. He plays another spade — nine, ten and I pitch a low heart (discouraging). Diamond to my ten (playing standard signals) – queen – small. Another spade and Roxie flies with the spade ace. I now pitch the club ten, encouraging. Roxie switches to the club five, king – ace small. I play the club jack and all follow, but declarer ducks. I lead another club and declarer pitches a heart, dummy winning. Declarer takes another diamond finesse to the jack (I play the 8). Declarer now leads the queen of spades.

Dummy S: x H: AJx D:x 

              Me: S: -- H:K9 D:K9 C:T

Declarer S: Q H:Qx D:A3

It seem obvious to me to pitch the heart nine, and I do so without any hesitation (as I’ve been considering this for several cards). Pitching the club winner when I was known to have K9 of diamonds and two hearts is basically admitting I’ve got the heart king. Declarer would endplay me in diamonds to make (via 3 spades, 3 diamonds, a club and two hearts). Declarer has only shown up with 9 points in spades, diamonds and clubs, so pretty much has to have the heart queen.

Declarer cashes the diamond ace and then leads the heart queen. When partner plays low he eyeballs it then plays low and I win my stiff king and flash my high diamond and club, claiming the rest.

Declarer compliments my play of baring the heart king.

But looking back on it, is my play right? I would presumably always pitch a heart (whether I had the King or not), for reasons shown above. But would Roxie duck the king of hearts from KTx? That gives up a trick. But in looking at the hand records I see that Declarer had QTx of hearts originally, so it turns out that Roxie would not cover.

Also, playing “safe” to let declarer make would have been a terrible score, as the field isn’t in 3N with 11 opposite 13 HCP, so I think my play was right. Probably. But if declarer didn’t have the ten …

In any case, today we get first overall, aided by hands like this.


Written by taogaming

May 22, 2023 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Bridge

4 Responses

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  1. If playing standard honor signals, I would pitch club jack first, not club ten. The ten denies the jack and is either an attitude signal, or a holding like AT987.

    Looks like your partner was 4=4=2=3, so I personally would prefer to lead from four small hearts than from the dangerous tenace AJxx vs a 1NT 3NT auction. Of course it could work but I feel AJxx is more likely to blow a trick than be necessary to lead at trick 1. Usually if leading from AJxx is right you can recover later in the hand if both enemy hands are balanced, and meanwhile it’s one of the most likely holdings to blow a trick (as it did here, by removing the guess for the jack). One hand proves nothing but on this hand a heart lead would have led to a finesse at trick 1, and a switch to a club intermediate at trick 2. Declarer only has 6 tricks outside of spades, and once partner is in with the spade ace they can lead a club to set the contract two.

    Finally since declarer holds the heart ten, they should be slightly suspicious of your heart 9 discard, as the heart 9 is the highest spot outstanding. If you really had 9×5 of hearts, would you discard the 9 second? You might, but a lot of people would woodenly discard their intermediate spot first. Against a pedestrian discarder, it’s more likely that your original holding is K95, even if it is in tempo.


    May 23, 2023 at 11:48 am

    • 1) Yes, jack first should have been this.
      2) Regarding 9×5, I’ve been watching a lot of the USBF trials and have heard several comments along the lines of “Michael Rosenberg is always exhorting people to play a high spot early.”

      In fact on a hand in the same set, I had a stiff opposite KQT seventh in trump, and if it goes went stiff-small-king-small then you typically play small to hope RHO started with Ax. But in fact the fourth card was the NINE (LHO being the same person as the declarer above). With a pedestrian defender, now playing the king to pin the jack becomes an option, but a good defender with J9x will of course play the 9 to create a losing option (9 from J9xx being one of the first “mandatory falsecards” mentioned in any chapter/book on them). So I think 9 as the second card from 9xx is in fact one of those plays that Michael Rosenberg is encouraging.

      (And of course this entire analysis is complicated by the fact that this was a trump suit, where people often echo for count/suitpref reasons).

      I was of course well aware that this particular LHO knew all the mandatory falsecards (and is excellent about catering his play to his particular opponent) so I pretty much had to ignore the fact that it was a nine, but with a “pedestrian discarder” I might well have tried to pin the jack. So it may be that he decided that (on the earlier hand) that I was capable of playing 5-9 from 9×5, which would be a nice compliment.

      All of which to say is that it’s complicated and if I was wrong it wouldn’t be that surprising.

      Also related — A local pro and I discussed this at a regional and he had a story about playing Hamman …. see


      May 23, 2023 at 3:29 pm

      • The J9x falsecards are old hat, very common in books and it’s part of my defensive arsenal for sure. I feel the 9×5 is more subtle. I’m not saying that people are incapable of playing 5 then 9 but against some people who are wooden defenders they simply won’t play that way with 9×5 and you can go for the drop against them with near-certainty.

        Anyway the more important point I wanted to make is that AJxX is usually a poor lead against 1NT – 3NT, as opposed to xXxx or AJxXx. (Five-card suits are so much better than four-card suits.) But that’s an issue for your partner, not you.


        May 23, 2023 at 5:15 pm

      • I do agree that AJxx lead is dangerous, but OTOH partner has no outside points, so the odds of catching me with something go up.

        I might not have led spades, but I would have been happier with a short heart lead than from four dead … partner has the points, and would likely have decent hearts on the auction.


        May 23, 2023 at 6:14 pm

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