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Common Game greed

Writing analysis for The Common Game gives me the opportunity to find new material for this column. This deal was played at clubs throughout the country in February 2020:

♠ A 8 7 6 3
4 3
♣ 9 8 6 5
♠ J 10 5 2
A Q 10 8 6 2
♣ J 3
♠ Q 9 4
K J 9 7
K 10 9 5
♣ 10 2
♠ K
J 7 6 4 3 2
♣ A K Q 7 4

With nobody vulnerable, South deals and opens 1: his longer, not stronger suit. West definitely should preempt with 2; don’t let that so-so four-card side spade suit deter you. North bids 2♠, a one-round force, but not game forcing. East could “follow the LAW” and aggressively raise to the 10-trick level (4), but might rein it in with so many defensive cards in the opponents’ suits. If he does bid 4, South doesn’t really have enough to bid 5♣ on his own. Likely it would get passed around to North who, with two aces, would double. South, with extra shape, now pulls to 5♣ and plays it there.

West leads his singleton. Tip: When a player preempts and leads a side suit, it is usually a singleton. Accordingly, declarer should win the A and draw trump. When they are 2–2, greed might set in. Suppose declarer unblocks his ♠K and crosses to dummy with a trump. He plays the ♠A to throw a heart and now leads the Q in an attempt to make six.

East wins (more on that in a moment) and plays a heart. Declarer can ruff, and then ruff a diamond, establishing his suit and claiming 12 tricks.

However, East, with a good idea of what is going on, should refuse to win his K. Now what? Declarer pays for his greed and goes down. He can ruff something to hand and ruff a diamond in dummy with the last trump. But he remains with J x x and the K is still out. He loses control and ends up down one. Try laying it out if you don’t see, but don’t try for the overtrick against an East player good enough to refuse to take the K.

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