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693. Dealer South. Both Vul.

West led a passive trump. Declarer cashed his trump honours, noting the 4-1 break. He saw that it would be fatal to cash the ace of hearts and ruff a heart in order to draw West’s last trump; most of the time, the defenders would come in with the ace of clubs and cash three heart tricks.

After some thought, declarer decided to rely on the diamond finesse for his contract and so played on clubs. West signalled his doubleton and was given a club ruff on the third round of the suit with the nine of clubs. West exited with a heart and declarer had to lose two diamond tricks.

Declarer complained about his bad luck but dummy was, as ever, unsympathetic. “At trick four, just play a low heart. Say East wins and plays a diamond, you play low from hand and West wins the trick with the jack.

A heart exit is as good as anything and you would ruff, draw the last trump, throwing the queen of diamonds from hand, and then play on clubs. All the defence would make is a trick in each of the side suits.”

694. Dealer North. Both Vul.

East thought that one notrump was the best choice on his hand but, after South doubled, he realised that discretion was in order and ran to two diamonds.

West led the two of diamonds (fourth-best). East won the first trick with the king of diamonds and continued with the ace of diamonds. Declarer paused to form a plan.

The opening lead suggested that East started with at least six diamonds. Declarer counted nine winners and the extra trick had to come from either hearts or clubs. As there were only 16 points outstanding, the heart finesse was destined to fail. If East had begun with four hearts, then given his presumed six diamonds he would have a 6-4-2-1 or a 6-4-3-0 shape, both of which would have been inconsistent with the one-notrump overall. Consequently, declarer was confident that he could ruff out the king of hearts.

Declarer ruffed the second diamond and drew trumps with the ace and king. His next move was to duck a heart. West was surprised when he won the trick and he exited with the five of clubs. When declarer ducked in dumm, East won the trick with the king and returned a club. Declarer tried a hopeful nine but West played the ten and dummy’s ace took the trick. Declarer continued with the ace of hearts and a heart ruff, bringing down East’s king. Finally, declarer used dummy’s ten of trumps as an entry to dummy to discard his last club on the established queen of hearts.

695. Dealer South. Both Vul.

West led the queen of spades against this routine contract. East played the king and declarer ducked. East returned a spade and declarer won the trick with ace.

Declarer saw that five club tricks were required to make the game. The only issue was to avoid plays that would block the suit. As the cards lay, playing the three of clubs at trick three would have brought about just such a fate, as dummy’s top clubs would have been needed to take care of East’s clubs and declarer would have been left with a club higher than any in dummy, thereby finishing one trick shy of his contract. The other issue to consider was the possibility that West had the four outstanding clubs. In that case, declarer saw that he would then need to come back to hand and use the ten-nine of clubs to finesse against West’s jack.

Consequently, declarer led the seven of clubs at trick three to dummy’s queen. Luckily both defenders followed. Declarer’s next move was to play the ace and king of clubs, unblocking the nine and ten from his hand. Next, declarer played dummy’s four of clubs, which was high enough to take care of his three. The two of clubs was the crucial fifth trick in the suit and so the game was made.

696. Dealer South. EW Vul.

The final contract was a touch on the thin side, but the declarer managed it with quite some skill. West led the three of spades and declarer made the key move of winning the first trick with dummy’s jack of spades, as a prelude to unblocking dummy’s three diamond honours.

After the diamonds were cashed, declarer played a spade to his king to cash the ace of diamonds. West had to find two discards and chose his two low clubs. This suggested to declarer that West began with a 5=2=2=4 distribution. Declarer placed West with a doubleton ace of hearts and so led a low heart next. West saw the endplay coming and so rose with the ace of hearts and exited with the queen of spades. Declarer cashed the king of hearts, to remove West’s last card in hearts and then exited with a spade. West scored two spade tricks but at trick twelve, he had to lead from his ace-queen of clubs. The king of clubs was sure to score for the declarer’s ninth trick.

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