Main     Puzzle 7F31 by Richard Pavlicek    

Ace Grabber

There you are, in your favorite contract after a routine 2 NT opening. Partner puts down a meager dummy, but an ace is an ace, and his boost to game is undeniably correct — especially opposite a declarer of your caliber. (I lie a lot but I need to build your confidence for this difficult deal.)

Problem
3 NT S 4 3 2
H A 2
D 9 8 7 6 5
C 4 3 2
None Vul

West

Pass


North

3 NT


East

All Pass


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

You have the potential for nine tricks — two spades, three hearts, three diamonds and a club — but the dearth of entries to dummy greatly limits your finessing ability. Some fancy footwork may be required to realize your potential.

Seeing all four hands, can you make 3 NT against any defense?

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Solution

The key plays come early. It looks tempting to hold up on the first trick, but you must grab the ace (else a heart shift is deadly). Next you must grab another ace, in spades. This bizarre play forces East to dictate his course of defense while you still have the resources to cope.

Suppose East follows low to the S A (surely normal). You can now succeed with several lines, as East will be isolated from West. Simplest is probably to lead a middle heart, queen, ace; then lead a spade toward the queen. Assume East wins the S K and returns a heart.

Solution
3 NT S 4 3 2
H A 2
D 9 8 7 6 5
C 4 3 2
Trick
1. W
2. S
3. S
4. N
5. E
W 4 L 1
Lead
C Q
S A!
H 10
S 3
H 5
2nd
2
5
Q
K
K
3rd
K
2
A
10
8
4th
A!
8
4
6
2
S J 7 6 5
H Q 9 8
D
C Q J 10 9 8 7
Table S K 9 8
H 7 6 5 4
D K 10 4 3 2
C K
S A Q 10
H K J 10 3
D A Q J
C A 6 5

From the ending at right, cash the S Q and H J, then throw East in with a heart (pitching clubs from dummy). Win the free diamond finesse, then cash the D A and lead your last diamond to East, who must give dummy your ninth trick. South
leads
S 4
H
D 9 8 7 6 5
C 4 3
S J 7
H 9
D
C J 10 9 8 7
Table S 9
H 7 6
D K 10 4 3 2
C
S Q
H J 3
D A Q J
C 6 5

Variation: If East unblocks the S K under the ace, the spotlight turns to West. Declarer can easily assemble eight tricks with a heart and a diamond finesse. Two diamond winners will force West to part with a good club, then he is endplayed with a club to lead from S J-x.

If you tried to make this contract with other approaches, you would find yourself frustrated by East’s ability to unblock in spades. The key is to make him commit early.

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© 1996 Richard Pavlicek