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Shrewd Play Steals a Trick

Those who play matchpoint duplicate bridge know that declarer’s goal is not really to make his contract (although it helps) but to win one more trick than other players will win with the same cards. How declarer achieves this, whether by legitimate means or craft, makes no difference on the score sheet.

Today’s deal, from the Chicago championships last month, looks like a nothing hand with 11 routine tricks in spades; but a skillful declarer does not accept this. There is usually some way to win another trick. Perhaps a squeeze play… or an endplay… or just bad defense.

4 S S Q J 10 8
H A 7 4 2
D 4 3
C A 8 2
None Vul

West

Pass
Pass


North

2 C
4 S


East
Pass
Pass
All Pass


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

West led the heart queen, and declarer analyzed his prospects. The only real hope was to establish the heart seven or diamond seven into a winning trick, but it would require a discard by the defender who held four cards. Declarer probably cannot force this discard, so he will need a mistake. Therefore, he decided to save the diamond suit for this purpose because it was hidden from view. The heart suit would be used to obtain ruffs.

Declarer won the heart king, heart ace, and ruffed a heart with the spade king. A trump was led to dummy, and another heart was ruffed with the spade ace. South’s last trump was led to dummy, and all the trumps were played. This last technique is often missed by average players, who cling to their last trump like Velcro, but is crucial to the success of many contracts. Also note that the hearts had to be ruffed out early to allow trumps to be led.

Meanwhile, everyone was reduced to five cards. South kept four diamonds and one club. West could have done the same to hold declarer to 11 tricks; but South’s hand was not visible. West, as would most defenders, kept Q-9-6 in diamonds and K-J in clubs. Declarer now took advantage: He ducked a diamond (to retain an entry to his hand), then the rest of the diamonds were good. That’s 12 tricks, and a top board.

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© 9-3-1989 Richard Pavlicek