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713. Dealer South. EW Vul.

This deal was played in a team game. The auction at each table was the same and each declarer received a fourth-highest five of hearts lead.

At the first table, declarer played the queen of hearts from dummy and this lost to the king. Noting that the declarer seemed unperturbed by this, East decided to try a spade switch. Declarer’s queen lost to West’s king and the spade return was won by declarer’s ace. As he had only seven top tricks, declarer needed to bring in the diamond suit. As there was no reason to play for East to have begun with all of the missing diamonds, declarer continued by cashing the ace of diamonds. After West discarded a heart, this declarer had to lose a diamond trick and his contract.

The declarer at the other table showed how to make the contract safely. As a spade lead from East could cause difficulties, he called for the ace of hearts at trick one. As long as East did not gain the lead too early, four diamond tricks would give him contract. With that in mind, declarer led a low diamond from dummy and when East followed with the six, he played the eight from hand.

If West had been able to win the first diamond he would have had no winning return: declarer would make four diamond tricks and have time to set up a second trick in hearts to make his contract. When the eight of diamonds held, declarer was able to play the diamond suit for five tricks and make an overtrick for a useful swing.

714. Dealer South. Both Vul.

North’s first response was a forcing-to-game heart raise and South’s rebid indicated a six-card suit. West led the jack of clubs. After winning the trick with the ace, declarer’s dilemma was that there were finesse positions in three suits. The only finesse he could not avoid was in spades, so his next move was to lead the queen of spades. West covered this with the king, which was taken by dummy’s ace of spades. After discarding a spade on the king of clubs, declarer ruffed dummy’s remaining club.

Now declarer was in a position to improve upon relying on either a winning trump finesse or finding the queen of diamonds. After cashing the jack of spades, declarer played a trump to dummy’s ace, then ruffed dummy’s last spade. The elimination was now complete and declarer exited with a trump to East’s king. East could see that a ruff-and-discard would give the contract away: instead he exited with the queen 13 of diamonds. This allowed declarer to claim his contract. It should be noted that if the spade finesse had lost, declarer would have taken the trump finesse, hoping that the king was onside. If that were successful, the potential diamond loser would have been parked on dummy’s king of clubs.

715. Dealer North. EW Vul.

West led the five of spades, taken by dummy’s bare ace. As he had only five top tricks and one more spade stopper, declarer saw that his best hope was to find diamonds 3-2 with the ace onside. When a low diamond was played from dummy East played the eight and declarer’s king won the trick.

Next, declarer crossed to dummy’s ace of hearts and led a second round of diamonds. East rose with the ace and declarer followed with the five from his hand, leaving him with the bare queen of diamonds in hand. All would have been well if he had received a major suit return but East could tell that the diamond suit was blocked and he attacked dummy’s entry by leading the king of clubs. Declarer ducked two rounds of clubs but this led to naught as East persisted with the suit and the contract could no longer be made.

“You should have crossed dummy with the ace of clubs at trick three,” said the ever-unsympathetic North. “Using the heart entry for the second diamond left you ripe for an entry killing club shift. As the cards lay, East could do no better that rise with ace of diamonds and cash three club tricks. However, that would be the end of the defence. If East exited with a heart, you would win in hand and cash the king of spades before unblocking the queen of diamonds. You could then cross to dummy with the ace of hearts and enjoy dummy’s two good diamonds as your eighth and ninth tricks.”

716. Dealer North. EW Vul.

This deal occurred in a pairs game, which accounts for the declarer trying for ten tricks in hearts rather than eleven in clubs. West, who had been listening to the auction, began with ace, queen and another diamond. Declarer saw that his main chance was trumps breaking 3-3. He then pondered what he could do if trumps were 4-2. After some thought, he saw that he could survive a 4-2 trump break whenever the player with four trumps had both a singleton club and four spades. So, after ruffing the third diamond in dummy while discarding a spade from hand, he cashed the queen of trumps before playing the ace and king of clubs.

Now it was East’s turn to pause to consider his options. As the cards lay, if he had ruffed the second club then the rest would have been easy for declarer: the best East could have done was to play another diamond, which declarer would have ruffed on the table, then crossed back to hand with a spade to draw trumps and claim.

There would be a similar outcome if East had thrown a diamond on the second club. Declarer would have continued with the ace, king and another trump to put East on lead with only spades left in his hand. Declarer would have won the forced spade return and run the clubs for his contract.

After some thought East discarded a low spade, and it was then declarer’s turn to reconsider his options. Declarer knew East well: he was not the sort of player who would refuse to ruff the second club with only two or three trumps. So declarer decided to play East for four trumps and cashed the ace and king of spades, then ruffed his remaining spade in dummy. When the queen of clubs was played, East could do no better than ruff and play a diamond. As declarer had the ace-king-seven of hearts left, he ruffed this with the seven and took the last two tricks with master trumps for his contract.

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