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Don’t Panic in 1NT

This deal sees declarer able to use two of the three basic methods of card promotion (Force, Length and Position) to make his 1 NT contract. He tried the third - oops.

South Deals
N-S Vul
J 9 7 6
J 2
Q 5 4 2
A 6 3
K 5
Q 9 7 5
K 9 6
Q 10 7 2
W   E
Q 10 8 3
10 4
A 10 8 7
J 9 5
A 4 2
A K 8 6 3
J 3
K 8 4
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 1 NT1
All pass      
  1. 15-17 balanced.

What happened
Winning  2 (to East’s  J) with  K, declarer led  J. He was (misguidedly) trying to force out  AK, and so promote  Q. But there were no Force Winners on this deal;  Q and  J was an insufficient sequence between the two hands -  10 and  9 were needed too.

West won  J with  K and continued with  Q. Winning  A, declarer next ran  J, another misguided effort (you cannot promote a card if you lead it). West won  Q, cashed  107, and switched to  9. Declarer covered with dummy’s  Q (it didn’t matter), and East took  A then  108. Declarer had set up no extra tricks and, losing a further trick at the end, garnered just his five top tricks,  A,  AK, and  AK. Down two.

What should have happened
You as declarer count five top tricks ( A,  AK, and  AK). Focussing on your five-card heart suit, you have the possibility of length winners. First, though, you must try to promote  J via a finesse. This means, crucially, leading from the opposite hand to the card, not actually leading it.

Win Trick One with  K, so that you can lead towards  J.  3 lead (key play) stymies West. If he rises with  Q, you play dummy’s  2 and  J is promoted. Say he plays low: you play  J and your 50-50 finesse succeeds (with West holding  Q). Now try for length winners, by returning to your  AK.

East discards on the third heart, but nil desperandum. Give West the fourth heart with his  Q, in order to promote  8 as a length winner. Win his  Q return with dummy’s  A, cross to hand with  A, and triumphantly cash  8. Seven tricks and 1 NT made.

If you remember just one thing...
Don’t panic when left in 1 NT. Look for sequences of three or more touching high cards, and/or a fivecard suit.

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