Being careful in bridge is advisable

So how does one write a column in the middle of a pandemic without writing about Covid-19?

I try and avoid the subject as it surrounds us anyway — you can’t turn on the TV without some gushing excited reporter bringing you the news on the latest surge or the rising body count, and the challenge for CNN, FOX and the BBC is what takes its place when and if it ends?

Aside from that, the masks are anyway a constant reminder of this “new normal” and we just need to adjust and stay patient and careful and think on more pleasant things like bridge.

Being patient and careful is, of course, true in bridge, especially in defence where I keep preaching passivity — when I am declarer I love it when the defence gets active and tries to defeat the contract as quickly as possible, the usual result being that they allow unmakeable contracts to make when just leaving declarer to his own devices would have been enough to defeat the contract. Have I got a hand for you to illustrate this? No, I just got caught up in my Covid musings!

Today’s hand is really about declarer play but also a bit about defence ­— in the declarer play we see the need for a Plan A which has to quickly shift to a Plan B when the defence thwarts the original plan. See Figure 1.

Dealer South, Both Vul.

South opened a 20-22 2NT and North had an easy raise to 3NT — West led the Heart Jack.

Declarer won the Heart and played a low Diamond to the Queen — his plan was to play two rounds of Diamonds and if the opponents didn’t take the Ace (which they wouldn’t) to switch to Clubs.

This plan, however, quickly turned to dust when West discarded a Club.

East won the Ace and now continued a Heart — declarer won and played a Diamond to the King and ran the Club 8 — this lost to the Queen and West cleared the Heart suit. Now when declarer played another Club, West won and cashed two Hearts for down one.

Do you see the winning line of play? — it’s not easy.

At trick two declarer must play the Diamond Jack — watch the impact on the defence. East cannot take the Ace — if he does, declarer wins the Heart return and simply ducks a Diamond forcing East to win. There are now four good Diamonds in dummy which, with the five major suit winners, makes nine tricks and a making contract.

So what happens when East ducks the Diamond? Well. Declarer simply gives up on that suit and leads a low Club towards the 8 and then continues Clubs, making the contract with two Spades, three Hearts, three Clubs, and only one diamond! That adds up to nine tricks, and success for Plan B!