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Defensive Holdup Foils Declarer

  by Richard Pavlicek

One of my students asked me about today’s deal, which arose in a local duplicate game. As South, she explained, “I opened two notrump and partner used Stayman, so we played three notrump after finding no major-suit fit.” No argument with the bidding.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S 7 6
H 9 5 3 2
D 10 4
C A 10 9 8 5

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

Lead: D 5
S A K 5 4
H A K 7
D A 8 7
C K J 6


She continued, “West led a diamond and I took my ace on the third round as dummy and East discarded a spade. I played the club king, then the jack which I ducked to East; but he also ducked and I never got the long clubs. What could I have done?” I asked what she did next, “I led a club to the ace and gave up a club, but I couldn’t get to dummy to win the last club.”

The last part is where she went wrong. Once East made the good play of ducking the second club, it was futile to continue the suit with no outside entry to dummy. Declarer now had eight tricks and there were three chances for a ninth: (1) Lead the ace, king and another heart hoping to establish dummy’s fourth heart, (2) lead the ace, king and another spade hoping to establish your fourth spade, or (3) try to endplay East and force him to lead into dummy’s clubs.

Line 1 is a long shot, requiring not only a three-three heart break but also that East would have to win the third round, else West would cash his diamonds. Line 2 is even worse, requiring that East has thrown a spade from four cards (a dubious discard) and that East must win the third round. The right choice is Line 3, which requires only that East has four or more hearts, an excellent chance after his spade discard.

Cash both top spades and both top hearts, then exit with a heart which East must win. After cashing his fourth heart, East must lead from his Q-7 of clubs into dummy’s A-10. Or to put it another way: If East doesn’t want his club queen early on, let him eat it for dessert.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek