Main     Almost Bridge 7E04 by Richard Pavlicek    

Opening Lead Gives a Ruff Time

Today’s deal occurred many years ago in the town of Dorfburg, West Germany, a small fishing village in the Black Forest. Or was it Katmandu, Nepal? I can’t remember, it’s been so long; but I was right there at the table.

The bidding was lively as both sides found their superb trump fits. East and West held the ultimate fit — 13 cards — but they finally succumbed when North persisted to six hearts. This was a wise decision since six hearts appears to be unmakable.

6 H by South

E-W Vul
S K Q J 10 9
H 5 4 3 2
D J 10 9 2
S 8 7
D K 8 7 6
C A Q J 10 9 8 4
TableS A 3 2
H 7 6
D Q 5
C K 7 6 5 3 2
Lead: C AS 6 5 4
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D A 4 3


3 C
6 C

3 H
6 H

5 C
All Pass
1 H
5 H

West led the club ace and the declarer surveyed his chances. Wow! A ruff and a sluff on the opening lead! He quickly made use of one of dummy’s small trumps and discarded a small diamond from his hand. Trumps were drawn in two rounds, then spades were attacked. Everything would have been cozy if East had taken his ace on the first or second round; but West gave a count signal with the eight, and East correctly held up. After winning the third spade, East returned a diamond and declarer could not avoid a diamond loser. The dummy had two good spades, but there was no way to get there.

East was quick to point out that declarer should have ruffed the opening lead in his hand, throwing a spade from dummy. Then when East held up the spade ace twice, declarer could lead the diamond jack to West’s king and eventually discard his last spade on dummy’s fourth diamond. South rebutted that East could cover the diamond jack with the queen. East argued that it didn’t matter since West would have to duck the second diamond, and then a spade lead would force East to concede another ruff-sluff; South agreed, but then realized that East could simply win the first spade if South played in this manner.

How to make it? Ruff the opening lead in both hands. Trumps are drawn in two rounds, then spades are led twice as East must duck. The diamond jack is led, covered by the queen (best), and won by the ace. The next diamond lead is ducked by West (best) and won by dummy’s ten. Finally, a spade is conceded to East who has no more diamonds and must return a club.


© 1986 Richard Pavlicek