Column 7B41 by Richard Pavlicek
When todays deal occurred in a local duplicate game, the bidding was the same at every table. Norths one-diamond opening and Souths two-notrump response were textbook bids, leading to the obvious final contract of three notrump. With such routine bidding, one might expect the play to be the same; but not so. Only half of the declarers were successful.
After a major-suit lead, declarers hopes lay in establishing the diamond suit. This itself was not a problem with the three-two diamond break; but when East gained the lead with the diamond queen, a shift to the club queen would give the defenders five tricks one more than declarer could afford. The play of the diamond suit was critical.
One successful declarer began by winning the spade 10 and leading a low diamond toward dummy. When West produced the jack, declarer ducked (East could not overtake this without losing the defenders second diamond trick). West returned a spade, taken by Souths king, and another diamond was ducked when Wests king appeared. This effectively established the diamond suit without allowing East to gain the lead to produce the devastating club lead.
Simple and foolproof! Right? Well, not quite. Although nothing can detract from declarers thoughtful play, a skillful defender might have found the winning counterplay. On the first diamond lead, West must put up the king an unusual play in view of dummys holding, but one that an expert probably would make. Whether or not declarer ducks this trick, East cannot be prevented from winning the third round of diamonds, after which a club lead defeats the contract.
So the defense can prevail after all. Nonetheless, I suspect that most of the declarers who went down were victims of their own careless play.
© 1985 Richard Pavlicek