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Diamond Play Is Key to Slam

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is another submitted by a reader, who as South arrived at a small slam on the bidding shown. Four notrump and five notrump were Blackwood; and when the latter disclosed that a king was missing, he signed off in six spades. The reader was fortunate that North did not have three kings, since seven spades would have no chance if, say, North held the diamond king instead of the queen. This substantiates the accepted 37-point requirement for a grand slam, since the South hand is worth 17 points (after revaluation) and North cannot have 20 points if his three-spade bid is correct.

6 S South
None Vul
S K 9 6 3
H K 6
D A Q 6 4 3
C A 5

1 D
3 S
5 H
6 H
1 S
4 NT
5 NT
6 S
S 8 5
H 9 5 4 2
D J 10 8
C Q 10 6 3
TableS J 4
H J 10 8 7
D K 9
C J 9 8 4 2

Lead: C 3
S A Q 10 7 2
H A Q 3
D 7 5 2
C K 7

West led the club three, taken by the ace, and declarer drew trumps in two rounds then cashed all his club and heart winners ending in the South hand. A diamond was led: ten, queen, king; then a diamond return by East left declarer with another loser — down one. The reader emphasized West’s play of the diamond 10 and noted that, if West had played low, he would have ducked the diamond completely.

The contract was well played until a point, and West indeed made a fine play in diamonds. Had West played the diamond eight, declarer could guarantee his contract by ducking since there was no lower diamond outstanding — either East would win and be endplayed or (rare) show out and unveil the diamond position. In this respect declarer’s reasoning was perfect.

Declarer went wrong in finessing the diamond queen when West played the 10. He could have increased his chances by winning the ace, returning to his hand with a trump, and then leading a diamond to the queen. This still succeeds whenever West has the king (just like the finesse); and it also succeeds when East has a doubleton king. Observe in the actual diagram that East would be endplayed after winning the diamond king — he must return a club or a heart, which allows declarer to discard his remaining diamond loser and ruff in dummy.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek