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Testy Deal Requires Lucky Guess

The Epson Worldwide Bridge Contest, reported in my column two weeks ago, produced a number of interesting deals — like today’s (No. 17 in the souvenir booklet). Most North-South pairs reached the game in spades, frequently after the auction shown.

4 S S 8 6 5 2
H K 4 3 2
D 5
C K 9 6 3
None Vul

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass


North

1 H
3 S


East

Pass
Pass


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

South’s one-club opening is dictated because his hand is too strong for one notrump and not strong enough for two notrump. After North responds one heart, South must quell his desire to bid notrump — note that three notrump fares poorly with a diamond lead — and show his strong spade suit. Further, South should jump shift to indicate game-going strength, and this soon results in the proper contract.

West does well to lead the unbid suit, and declarer has a lot to think about: Should he draw trumps immediately? Or ruff diamonds? Or play on hearts? And what about clubs? Based on the North-South hands alone, the proper play is not obvious — even after considerable analysis — but my choice is to lead the heart ten to the king. This is predicated on the general principle to drive out enemy aces first, as those tricks must always be lost. By throwing the ball back to the defense, declarer postpones his decision until he has more information; and occasionally the defenders will do something to help declarer’s cause.

Assume that East wins the ace and returns a heart to the queen. Ruff a diamond and lead a spade: 10, jack, queen. West should return a trump and now declarer can succeed with an overtrick: Ruff the last diamond, play a club to the ace, draw trumps and run the clubs. Anyone would do that looking at all four hands; but the club queen does not rate to drop holding just eight clubs.

I must admit that I would lead a club to the jack — failing miserably (down two) when West wins and leads another diamond. I guess it’s just as well that other commitments prevented me from playing in this event.

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© 7-5-1987 Richard Pavlicek