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Careful Play Solves Entry Problem

Today’s deal provides some insight into the delicacy of entries and communication at a notrump contract. Understanding the principles here is essential to become a winning player.

3 NT S K J 6 5 3
H A 8 4 2
D 3
C J 5 3
None Vul

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass


North

2 C
3 S


East
1 D
Pass
Pass


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

South’s one-notrump overcall showed 16 to 18 points and a stopper in diamonds, the enemy suit. North’s two-club response was Stayman — just as if South opened one notrump — and South’s two diamonds denied a four-card major suit. North then jumped in his five-card spade suit, and South signed off in three notrump.

West led the diamond four, and South captured West’s jack with the king. Declarer’s prospects were not good. The best chance was to establish the spade suit, which would require the queen onside and a three-three break. Let’s follow the play in three scenarios.

Case 1: Declarer led a low spade to dummy’s jack and East’s ace. The diamond return was won with the ace, then declarer led a spade and ducked the trick. The opponents could win only two diamond tricks (plus their two spade tricks), so declarer made his contract — thanks to the favorable spade division. Well played? We’ll see.

Case 2: East was a better defender; he did not win his spade ace when declarer led to dummy’s jack. Declarer came to his hand with the heart king to lead another spade, ducked to East’s 10, then the diamond return was taken with the ace. The difference now was that South had no more spades to lead, so dummy’s suit could not be established without using the heart ace. The best declarer could do was to cash his heart tricks — down one.

Case 3: South was a better declarer; he knew that East would be smart enough to hold up his spade ace, so he devised a plan to keep communication with the dummy. He ducked the first spade lead completely. After regaining the lead, South led his last spade to dummy’s jack, then he could not be prevented from making three spade tricks — and his contract. Bravo!

So, declarer wins out with best play all around. But don’t accept any kudos if you played as in Case 1.

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© 2-12-1989 Richard Pavlicek