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701. Dealer East. EW Vul.

East’s initial pass, the vulnerability, South’s pre-emptive opening bid and West’s reticence conspired to keep East-West out of the auction, where 12 tricks, albeit rather fortunately, are available in hearts.

West led the king of hearts and shifted to the two of diamonds. As the cards lay, playing low from dummy would have been fatal: East would win the trick with the king of diamonds and shift to a club, giving the defenders four tricks before declarer gained the lead.

Instead of playing low at trick two, declarer called for dummy’s ace of diamonds and led dummy’s jack of hearts at trick three, throwing the queen of diamonds from hand. This loser-on-loser gave declarer a real chance of establishing a long card in diamonds without letting East gain the lead. West won that trick with the ace of hearts and shifted to his seven of trumps. Declarer took this with dummy’s ten and followed with the six from hand. After ruffing a diamond high, declarer led the two of trumps to dummy’s three to ruff another diamond high. Next came the four of trumps to dummy’s five to ruff a third diamond, thereby establishing dummy’s last diamond as a winner. All that remained for declarer to do was to cross to dummy with the ace of trumps and discard a club on the good diamond.

If the diamonds had broken 5-1, declarer would have had to hope that the ace of clubs was onside.

702. Dealer South. Both Vul.

After West made a Michaels Cue Bid, showing length in both major suits, North doubled to show some values. East’s preference for spades gave South a problem and his choice of three spades indicated a powerful diamond-based hand. When North showed diamond support with his leap to five diamonds, South had an easy raise to six.

West led the king of spades to declarer’s bare ace. All seemed routine for declarer until West discarded a spade on the ace of trumps. Declarer saw that his main chance of making the contract was to find West with the queen of clubs. However, he noted that there was an extra chance if East began with exactly three spades and one heart, not unlikely in view of his bidding: then East could be stripped of his major suit cards and put on lead with a trump when he would only have clubs left in his hand – then it wouldn’t matter who had the queen of clubs.

Putting this plan into action, declarer drew a second round of trumps with dummy’s king and ruffed a spade. Next, he crossed back to dummy with the king of hearts to ruff dummy’s remaining spade. This was followed by the crucial move of unblocking the king of clubs, to ensure three tricks in the suit when East started with 3-1 in the majors.

Declarer continued with the ace of hearts and East was fixed! If he ruffed with his winning trump he would then have to play a club into dummy’s ace-jack ten-ace, thereby giving declarer two tricks in the suit and a parking place for his heart loser. When East threw a club instead of ruffing he was put on lead with a trump for the same outcome.

703. Dealer North. EW Vul.

South’s two notrump rebid was forcing, asking for more information about the North hand. The leap to four hearts confirmed that North had four-card support for hearts and South used Roman Key Card Blackwood on the way to bidding the heart slam. North showed two key cards without the queen of hearts.

West led the queen of diamonds and declarer counted ten likely winners, a loser in trumps and a possible loser in clubs. Declarer saw that he would always make twelve tricks if the trumps were no worse than 4-1, whenever East had the king of clubs.

However, this declarer was not one to rely on a finesse when there was a better line available – that of ruffing two diamonds in hand. He took the lead with the ace of diamonds, cashed the king of diamonds and then ruffed a diamond with the king of trumps. Next he led the seven of trumps to dummy’s nine. When East allowed this to hold, declarer ruffed a second diamond with the queen of trumps and then led the ten of trumps to dummy’s jack. East took this with the ace and shifted to a club. Declarer rose with the ace of clubs and then crossed to dummy by playing the six of spades to the ace. Then he drew East’s two remaining trumps with dummy’s eight and six before claiming his contract. He made four spade tricks, three trumps, two diamonds, two diamond ruffs in hand and the ace of clubs for a total of twelve tricks.

704. Dealer East. EW Vul.

This deal was played in a teams match and both Wests led the queen of diamonds against four spades after identical auctions.

The first declarer took the opening lead in hand and played a trump to the king followed by a second trump towards his hand. When East discarded a club the contract could no longer be made.

The second declarer saw that if there was a trump loser he would have to find a way to avoid a loser in each of the side suits and then proceeded to show how that could be done. He took the opening diamond lead in hand with the king and cashed the ace of trumps. After both opponents had followed with small trumps, he then made the rather strange-looking play at tricks three and four of the ace followed by the ten of hearts. West rose with the queen of hearts and continued with the ten of diamonds. Declarer took this with dummy’s ace and led the jack of hearts, discarding the nine of diamonds from hand after East threw a club. West took this with the king and tried to cash the jack of diamonds. Declarer ruffed this in hand and crossed to dummy with the king of trumps. East’s second club discard was a slight disappointment but declarer was still in charge for he could discard his club loser on the established nine of hearts. All declarer lost was two hearts and a trump.

The diamond lead gave both declarers a chance to make the game, while a club lead would have left neither with a way of making four spades.

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