The County Individual Final

by Philip Wraight

Individual Tournaments are usually lotteries and this year's County Final was no exception. However there was some fine play and a lot of interesting hands.

First a lead problem - after your partner makes a protective double of 1NT, what do you lead holding sKJ854 hJ4 d T864 c95 ? (Answer below)

As an example of excellent play, what about this sparkling defence I encountered as East on board 6?

S K7
H QJ9843
D 84
C K106
Dealer E
H K10
D 763
C 952
W         E
S 63
H A542
C AQ873
S 10542
H 7
D KQ10952
C J4
   East       South       West       North   
1c P 1s 2h
p p 3c P

and I found myself in a rather thin 3NT. I won the heart lead in hand, to preserve hK as a subsequent entry to the spades, and immediately finessed sQ. North (Robin Cambery) ducked without a flicker. I now finessed cQ, which also held, and things were going well. I next ducked a club, to establish the suit and 9 tricks. Robin did well to overtake his partner's jack, and cleared the hearts. I cashed 3 more clubs, discarding two diamonds, and lured by the mirage of overtricks at Pairs (I should have realised that simply making 3NT would be a good result when few of the field would be in it) I finessed again in spades. Robin won with his now stiff K and cashed four more heart tricks to set the contract by two tricks for a well deserved top. Incidentally if South had led dK at trick 1 or North had won the second trick above and switched to a diamond, the contract is always making provided South (now the danger hand) is kept off the lead after the A is held up for one round.

This was my hairiest hand:

Board 21
S Q65
D J64
C J1082
Dealer E
H AK952
C A96
W         E
S K7
H 103
D K9753
C KQ53
S 109432
H 874
D 1082
C 74

As East, needing a good board towards the end of the competition, I took an optimistic view of my 5th diamond and opened a sub-minimum, off-centre, 1NT. Lacking transfers, Roman Key Card Blackwood and other similar toys, I think most West players with their rather nice 22 point hand would have bid 5NT, asking me to choose between 6NT and 7NT. (There are no prizes for guessing which action I would have chosen). My partner for that round (Victor Milman) was made of sterner stuff and having used Gerber to check that I had 3 kings, rapidly propelled me to 7NT(!) and 3s was led. If this was away from the Q, the finesse could wait, so I played small from dummy and N was fixed. Whatever she played I had 13 tricks when the diamonds broke 3-3.

Finally that lead problem, which came up on board 11 after East had doubled South's opening 1NT. (I was an interested spectator at N)

Board 11
S Q32
H 752
D A97
C J1083
Dealer S
S KJ654
H J4
D 10864
C 85
W         E
S 8
H AQ1096
D 52
S A1097
H K83
C 72

There is always a risk, doubling 1NT in the "protective" position, that partner, with nothing to go on, will find the wrong lead. Here a spade let the contract through trivially. South (that man Cambery again) won cheaply, crossed to dA, led a heart and East was fixed. On a heart or club lead the contract should always be off and even on a diamond lead, South will have to take a good view in spades, which, on the bidding, he is likely to get wrong. I do not know what the answer is. At the Leeds Swiss teams after this auction with a similar holding I decided not to lead fourth highest from a broken spade suit. There it would have led to a two trick defeat and my alternative was the only lead to let the contract make! [Editor's tip: You are right - these hands are lotteries, but a good rule is to lead your five card suit every time - it may not be the right lead but at least you won't worry about it!]