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Subterfuge

Gary Schneider of Ft. Lauderdale was the star on today’s deal from a duplicate game at the Ft. Lauderdale Bridge Club. As South he opened an off-shape one notrump, a reasonable bid since each of his doubletons contained an honor. This caused West to huddle momentarily before passing — a clue that Schneider used to advantage in the play. North’s two-diamond response was a Jacoby transfer bid, showing at least five hearts, and South obligingly bid two hearts. North would have passed with a very weak hand, but his two-spade bid showed a second five-card suit and interest in game. South jumped to game with his excellent heart fit.

4 H S Q 9 7 6 5
H 10 9 8 6 5
D A J
C 2
None Vul

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass


North

2 D
2 S


East

Pass
Pass


South
1 NT
2 H
4 H
S K 10 3
H K 2
D Q 10 8 3
C A J 9 3
Table S A 8 4
H J 3
D 9 7 6 5 4
C 7 6 5
Lead: C A S J 2
H A Q 7 4
D K 2
C K Q 10 8 4

West led the club ace and shifted to a diamond, won by dummy’s jack. The normal play to avoid a loser in the trump suit is to finesse the queen; but declarer had reason to believe that West held the king from his reluctance to pass over one notrump. Accordingly, he embarked on a clever campaign to induce an error. He led a heart to the ace, returned to dummy with a diamond, and led another heart; jack; queen; king.

West found himself on lead in an uncomfortable situation. Looking at all four hands it is obvious that West could lead a spade and defeat the contract; but West did not know his partner held the spade ace, and this would be a costly lead if declarer held that card. Clearly, a diamond lead would yield a ruff and discard, so West returned a “harmless” club. This indeed would have been harmless if declarer held a balanced hand; but the concealed five-card suit provided four discards for dummy’s spades, and the contract was made.

An expert East-West pair would have survived this situation with proper signals. On the club ace East should play the seven. The play of a high card with a singleton in dummy shows a preference for the lead of the higher ranking side suit (spades).

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© 5-4-1986 Richard Pavlicek