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Extreme Distribution Foils Declarer

  by Richard Pavlicek

It looked like a piece of cake when South became declarer in four spades on today’s deal, which occurred at the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Roanoke, Va., over the Memorial Day weekend. I know too well; I was South.

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

Lead: C 10
S Q 10 8 6 4
H 6
D K 8 4 3
C J 6 2

The bidding was unusual in that East chose to open with a weak two-bid holding a side four-card spade suit — not a recommended practice because of the danger of missing a spade fit when partner has four or more spades. Nevertheless, the qualify of West’s heart suit merits partial forgiveness.

North made a takeout double, I bid my spades, and North continued with two notrump. This showed about 19 to 21 points (remember, South might have no points) so my hand was strong enough to warrant game. I bid my second suit, North showed his three-card spade support — just what I wanted to hear — and I continued to four spades.

West found the best lead of a club, and I immediately cashed dummy’s ace-king of trumps. Ninety-nine times out of 100 the contract would be laydown, but this was the one. I next led a diamond, hoping to reach my hand to lead a heart up; but West ruffed my diamond king and returned a club. The contract was history.

This deal bothered me. Despite the bad trump break, 10 tricks appear to be available in the form of four spades, two diamonds, two clubs, one heart and one club ruff. Of course, the lack of entries to the South hand make this difficult to realize. Seeing all four hands, I found a way: Win both top clubs and just one top spade in dummy, then lead a low heart from the king. This forfeits the heart trick (at least temporarily), but declarer can always succeed. Say, East wins and returns the club queen: Ruff in dummy, cash the other top trump, ruff a heart and cash the spade queen; exit with a spade and West must lead a heart, which makes dummy’s king good after all. Now why didn’t I think of that at the table.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek