"To draw or not to draw"
Drawing trumps: damned if you, damned if you don't. Less experienced players invariably ask about bidding but the one card-play question that recurs is "When should I draw trumps?". There are no simple answers, indeed, if there were, we wouldn't play this game. My reply is that if you have top tricks, draw trumps to stop them being ruffed away. Over-simplified? True, but a balance of complexity and usefulness.
That experienced players have difficulties is both instructive and a consolation. This deal arose in the US Team Trials final and featured "to draw or not to draw" decisions at both tables.
- 11-15, 2+ diamonds
- Not four spades, natural – scrambling?
West arrived, possibly reluctantly, in three diamonds and North led the ace-king of spades then switched to the club king. South discouraged, West ducked and North tried a low heart at trick four; three, queen, king. Take it from there.
It looks natural to play trumps: there were no obvious ruffs to be taken in West's flat hand; North has the king for his no-trump overcall and West has entries for a second finesse. But that just didn't work for quite subtle reasons – easier to see on the full diagram.
(North has scored two spades and the club king, West the heart king.)
A diamond went to the queen, a club to the ace, a club was pitched on the heart ace and another trump finesse taken. But North still held the diamond king and West had to lose a trump and a spade. Clearest is to lead a spade at trick four not a trump. If North ruffs then two finesses pick up his king (North has to concede an entry after ruffing) and if he discards, East wins the queen and ruffs a spade. That is sure to be overruffed but is North-South's last trick, again finessing twice captures North's king.
Whereas the first West elected not defend two hearts doubled at the second table East-West were quicker on the trigger.
- Clubs or balanced, 11-13 / 17-19
- Rescue with (one of) a long minor, both majors or good spades
- Forced ("what have you got?")
- Both majors
West led a low heart, often a good idea with the majority of high-card strength against a low-level contract and low avoids a costly crash of honours. Dummy was allowed to hold the seven (arguably, overtaking in South to play clubs is better); should South play trumps?
The answer to this is no – but he did. "When both sides draw trumps, one side crazy" goes the saying – but after winning the king, West didn't know who was crazy, so he switched (trump ace is successful). Declarer now got back on track, cashing spades and conceding diamonds to organise a spade ruff. Two hearts doubled made for +670 to go with +50 from the other room.
Published Saturday 10.Jun.2017