In the game of tic-tac-toe a child learns how to threaten a win in two directions, making it impossible for his opponent to block both. The same strategy applies to bridge. If your line of play poses two threats, the opponents may not be able to stop both.
Test yourself as declarer on this difficult contract:
West leads the 8.
How many clubs do you think he has?
With North bidding clubs twice it is unusual for West to lead that suit. Therefore, it is almost surely a singleton, which means you are in for a tough challenge.
Your club play from dummy?
Hopefully, that was easy. The 10-9 may be useful later, so dont waste them now. East would play low regardless, since he can see every club but the ace. You next lead a heart from your hand.
Your heart play from dummy?
Your best chance for a 10th trick is to ruff a heart, but to play ace and another heart is a vain attempt; the defense would simply play ace and another spade. Ducking the heart poses a dual threat besides the heart ruff, you retain a key entry to dummy. West plays the 9 and East the 10.
East shifts to the A and a spade.
In which hand do you win this?
Unblocking allows you to do this.
Which card do you lead next?
By ruffing a club you would be able to establish the long clubs if the suit divided 4-2. On the second club West discards the 10, confirming the expected 5-1 break. You next lead the K to draw the one outstanding trump, discarding a club from dummy, and East throws the 6.
This is what you see now:
Which suit do you lead?
It is good strategy to put pressure on the opponents. Even if you cant see a definite conclusion, the more opportunities you give them to discard, the greater the chance of an error. West throws the 7, dummy the 2, and East the J.
Which suit next?
Keep them babies coming! Average players miss many opportunities where a trick can be gained by leading all the trumps. Its like the trump suit is some kind of a security blanket for them. On this trick West discards the 8.
Your discard from dummy?
Hopefully, you didnt discard an ace. This contract is too delicate to be throwing away tricks. East also discards a diamond the queen.
Only five cards remain:
Were getting down to the nitty-gritty.
It appears that East has shortened himself in diamonds, and it is critical to lead that suit. This is confirmed when you win the A and East discards the 7.
The lead is now in dummy and the world is resting on your shoulders.
Your next lead?
Finally, with just K-10-9 left, you lead a low club to endplay East. Note that your previous lead to the A also posed a dual threat: If East kept two hearts to avoid the endplay, you could establish a club trick.
Below is the full deal:
Despite declarers excellent effort, East could defeat the contract by returning a low spade (without cashing the ace) when he won the 10. If South then elects to ruff a heart, he can never enjoy the K; or if he leads spades, East can kill one of the crucial entries to dummy. The defense can play the dual threat game, too!
© 2000 Richard Pavlicek