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697. Dealer South. EW Vul.

West led the ten of spades and East played the jack. Declarer won the trick with the ace, drew three rounds of trumps and exited with a spade. East won the trick with the queen and shifted to a diamond. Declarer played the nine and West won the trick with jack of diamonds, then exited with the ten of clubs. Declarer could do no better than play the ace, king and another club. Upon winning the third round of clubs, East led through a second diamond. When declarer’s queen of diamonds lost to West’s king, declarer was down one.

“What rotten luck: both diamond honours were wrong and East had the club length,” complained South.

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” said North. “You were on the right train when you exited with the spade at trick five, but it was too early. You should have cashed the ace and king of clubs beforehand. East can win, cash a club and exit with a diamond, but will then be endplayed when he takes your ten of diamonds with his jack. Essentially, you gave East two opportunities to lead diamonds instead of just one.”

698. Dealer West. EW Vul.

West judged correctly that East’s four-club bid could not be forcing as he’d had a three-spade call available to him. With clubs 4-1 and both diamond honours wrongly placed, his discreet final pass was the prudent call at the prevailing vulnerability.

West led the nine of hearts, which was clearly from a doubleton or singleton. Declarer saw that he had a fine dummy; the task before him was to keep partner happy by making the game.

The main issue was that there was an apparent loser in each suit and that the only way to avoid a heart loser was to make two diamond tricks, with the ace being onside. Thus declarer won the heart lead with his ace and led a diamond at trick two (although a club would have worked as well). West played low and dummy’s queen won the trick.

Declarer now paused to consider the rest of the play. If East had the ace of trumps, there would be no way to prevent the defenders from make a heart trick. If he played a trump next and West had the ace he would win and play a heart next; then when West makes his ace of diamonds he would put East in with a club to cash a heart trick.

As result, declarer saw that he had to cut the link between the defensive hands by leading a club at trick three. On this layout, East won the trick with the king of clubs and exited with the queen of hearts. Declarer took this in dummy with the king of hearts then played a trump to the king and West’s ace. West exited with a hopeful club, as he had no heart left. Declarer ruffed, drew the outstanding trump and then led a diamond, taken by West with the ace. As the nine of trumps remained in dummy as an entry to cash the king of diamonds, West had to concede the contract.

699. Dealer South. EW Vul.

North’s cue bid of two spades promised a limit raise or better in hearts, as an immediate three hearts would have been pre-emptive.

West began with the ace of spades and followed with the king of spades, which declarer ruffed. After drawing the trumps in two rounds ending in dummy, declarer ruffed dummy’s remaining spade to eliminate that suit from his combined hands. Declarer saw that crossing back to dummy leading towards the king of clubs would be a weak move, relying entirely on the ace of clubs being onside. Instead, declarer decided to combine his chances in the minors. His first move was to cash the king and ace of diamonds in that order. When he led a third round of diamonds towards his hand East followed with a low card and the decision point of the deal was reached. After a little thought, declarer decided to finesse the ten of diamonds. When this won declarer discarded a club on the queen on the ace of diamonds, crossed to dummy with a trump and led a club to the king. West cashed two club tricks but the contract was safe.

“That was a lucky guess in diamonds,” West offered.

“Not at all,” said South. “If the ten of diamonds had lost to your jack, you would have been endplayed. You would have been forced to lead a club or give a ruff-and-discard and either way I would have made the contract. So, it wasn’t a guess; it was finesse that was certain to win, even if it lost.”

700. Dealer South. Both Vul.

As the opponents had competed freely to four hearts, North placed South with at most a singleton heart and consequently made a slam try. South was happy to cooperate and the slam was bid.

West expected that one of his opponents was short in hearts and so found the best lead of a trump. Declarer saw that if trumps were 2-2, he could draw trumps and ruff the fourth round of diamonds if necessary. Similarly, the contract would be made easily if the diamonds split 3-3.

As neither of these favourable breaks was particularly likely, declarer was relieved when East followed to the trump lead. He aimed to make twelve tricks on a dummy reversal, ruffing four hearts in the South hand. After taking the first trick with dummy’s nine of spades, declarer ruffed a heart. He returned to dummy with queen of trumps and ruffed a second heart. As the trumps were 3-1, declarer crossed to dummy with the ace of diamonds to ruff a third heart. After playing a club to the ace to ruff dummy’s last heart, all that remained was to lead a club to dummy’s king and draw West’s remaining trump. Declarer made three trumps in dummy, four ruffs in hand and the five minor suit winners for a total of twelve tricks.

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