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Make It and Break It — Times Two

  by Richard Pavlicek

When today’s deal came up in a recent rubber-bridge game, North and South had a simple auction to reach game; and declarer had an even simpler time making it. See if you can spot the defensive error.

4 S South
Both Vul
S 9 5 4 3
H Q 5
D J 5 2
C K Q J 5


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

Lead: H J
S A K Q 8 6
H 7 4 3
D A K 3
C 4 3

West led the heart jack; queen, ace; East returned the heart two to West’s nine; then West shifted to the diamond 10 to South’s king. Declarer drew trumps in three rounds, then he forced out the club ace to establish a discard for his losing diamond. All very easy; indeed, it was too easy. Could you have spoiled declarer’s picnic?

West missed his opportunity. The diamond shift wasn’t terrible; nor was it inspired. A more promising defense was to tap the dummy by leading a third round of hearts. (East’s fourth-best return of the two marks declarer with another heart.) The purpose is to lock out the late entry to dummy. When declarer leads clubs, West would start a high-low to show an even number (two or four), so East will win the ace on the second round. Then declarer is unable to reach the good club in dummy to discard a diamond. Down one.

Now that you see how to break it, let’s find a way to make it — if the defense can be inspired, so can declarer. Ruff the third heart in dummy and draw trumps in three rounds. Next lead a club, which East of course must duck. Stop! Don’t lead another club. Return to your hand with the diamond ace, and lead your last two trumps. Dummy remains with jack-five in diamonds and a club; you have king-three in diamonds and a club. East’s last three cards probably will be queen-eight in diamonds and the club ace. Get the picture? Exit with a club and East must lead a diamond from his queen. So you make four spades.

All right; now let’s break it once and for all. What did you think of West’s opening lead? I didn’t like it; leading blindly from a king is a doubtful practice. If West leads the diamond 10, the defense prevails: East wins the second club lead, then he puts West in with the heart king to lead another diamond. There are several variations in the play (left to the reader) but accurate defense always prevails.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek