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709. Dealer North. EW Vul.

West led the king of clubs. Declarer won this in hand with the ace and played the seven of diamonds to dummy’s king and East’s ace. The expected trump return was made and declarer paused to consider how the rest of the play would proceed: he had three side-suit winners and so would have to make seven trump tricks, the one at trick three and six on a crossruff.

The question declarer asked himself was, “Where should I win this trump return?” Clearly, he needed to ruff three clubs and two diamonds, leaving a high trump in hand as his tenth trick. Declarer saw that if he ran the trump to dummy he would go down because he would no longer have the entries to ruff three clubs, so he took the trump return in hand with the nine and ruffed a club. As the standard plan when crossruffing is to cash the side winners, declarer played the queen of diamonds and the ace of hearts next. Then he crossruffed the minor suits for a total of nine tricks, with the ace of trumps still left in his hand as the tenth trick.

One final point is that, as the cards lay, West could have defeated the contract by leading his singleton trump.

710. Dealer South. Both Vul.

North’s weak major suits deterred him from responding with one notrump – he upgraded his hand a little due to the aces and doubleton heart and made a limit raise. West led the four of hearts. East took the trick with the ace and returned the queen, holding the lead. When West followed with two of hearts, declarer expected a third heart from East followed quickly by three more heart winners from West.

However, instead of a third heart, the pleasant surprise of the queen of spades hit the table in its place. Declarer won this with the king of spades and realised that the hearts had been 6-2 originally, with the suit blocked. The task now was to take advantage of this unexpected twist.

Declarer counted eight top tricks and saw that there would at least nine tricks if one of the minor suits broke 3-2. As his pips in clubs were weaker than those in diamonds, declarer cashed the king and queen of clubs next. After noting East’s spade discard, declarer could place West with 6-4 in the round suits. Thus the key to playing the diamonds was to discover how the other three cards in West’s hand were distributed. So he cashed the ace of spades: if West had discarded on this trick, the diamonds would have been 3-2 and no special strategy would have been required to make four tricks in the suit. Once West followed to the ace of spades, however, he could have had at most one diamond: he must have begun with either 3=6=0=4 or 2=6=1=4 shape.

So declarer led his four of diamonds to dummy’s queen, noting West’s five. Next he led the three of diamonds and finessed the eight after East followed with the seven. This gave declarer four diamond tricks and the contract.

Obviously, it would have made no difference if East had split his jack-nine of diamonds. Declarer would then have won the trick with the king of diamonds and crossed back to dummy with the thoughtfully-preserved ace of clubs to finesse the eight of diamonds.

711. Dealer South. Both Vul.

Rather than perpetrate a reverse with 4-4 in the suits, South decided to take the slight risk of North’s insisting on a spade contract and rebid two notrump. West led a fourth-highest two of diamonds to East’s ten. Declarer decided to win the trick with his king of diamonds. This was a good move, for a heart shift would have defeated the contract as the cards lay – the defenders would then have made two spades, two hearts and a diamond.

Declarer could count seven winners in top cards and planned to gather two more from the spade suit. So, at trick two, he led the ten of spades of spades, which held the trick. Next, declarer cashed the ace of clubs and played the nine of clubs to dummy’s jack, noting that the suit was 3-2. Then he called for dummy’s queen of spades. East rose with the ace of spades and continued with the jack of diamonds to South’s ace.

Declarer took advantage of the known 3-2 break in clubs to create an extra entry to dummy in clubs by leading the queen of clubs to dummy’s king. Next he led the jack of spades and threw a heart from hand. West took this with the king of spades and cashed his two diamond winners, with dummy throwing hearts. When West exited with the ten of hearts, declarer took this in hand with the ace and led the three of clubs to dummy’s five to cash the contract-fulfilling nine of spades.

Declarer would have succeeded if it had been West who won the second round of spades too, even if he had shifted to the ten of hearts. On that development, declarer would have played low from dummy and won the trick in hand with the ace of hearts and then led the queen of clubs to the king. As it would have been East who would win the next spade, the queen of hearts would’ve been safe from attack and again declarer would have made nine tricks.

Finally, if clubs had been 4-1 then declarer would have led up to dummy’s queen of hearts in the hope that West had begun with the king of hearts.

712. Dealer South. Neither Vul.

West led a low trump. Declarer won the trick in hand with the queen and then drew the remaining trump with his ace. Next, he played the king and ace of clubs followed by his remaining club towards dummy’s jack. While this was the best play in clubs, it did not work here as East was able to take the trick with the ten and continue with the queen of clubs. Declarer ruffed this and led a diamond to the queen which lost to East’s king. Declarer’s last chance to make the contract was the finesse of the ten of diamonds and when that failed he had to concede defeat.

“That was really unlucky,” said South. “My line had better than a 90% chance of making ten tricks.”

“Luck had nothing to do with the matter,” said North. “There was a 100% line available. You started well by drawing trumps and cashing the ace and king of clubs. However, instead of playing a club at trick five you should have led the queen of hearts next. The defender who wins this cannot touch either minor without giving you a trick. So, he has to play a second round of hearts and, instead of ruffing, you discard the last club from your hand.”

“After this, if East had been on lead and he had exited with a low club, you’d have discarded a diamond (intending to discard your remaining diamond on the jack of clubs if West were to win the trick with the queen). On the other hand, if it had been West who’d been on lead after the second heart as the cards lay, he would have had to play a diamond or give you a ruff-and-discard. (If West could have exited with a low club, you would cover the card with the jack and either win the trick, or East would have won and clubs would have been 3-3. If West had instead played the queen of clubs it would be a simple matter from there. So, no matter how the cards lay, you would have made ten tricks.”

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