Todays 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.
Souths one-notrump overcall showed 16 to 18 points and a stopper in diamonds, the enemy suit. Norths two-club response was Stayman just as if South opened one notrump and Souths 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 Wests jack with the king. Declarers prospects were not good. The best chance was to establish the spade suit, which would require the queen onside and a three-three break. Lets follow the play in three scenarios.
Case 1: Declarer led a low spade to dummys jack and Easts 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? Well see.
Case 2: East was a better defender; he did not win his spade ace when declarer led to dummys jack. Declarer came to his hand with the heart king to lead another spade, ducked to Easts 10, then the diamond return was taken with the ace. The difference now was that South had no more spades to lead, so dummys 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 dummys 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 dont accept any kudos if you played as in Case 1.
© 1989 Richard Pavlicek