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Easy Does It

An average defender is too eager to win tricks, while a clever defender will often be patient and wait. Is there a secret formula to know which path to follow? Yes! It all comes down to counting the tricks, a concept I continually stress in my teaching.

3 NT by South

None Vul
S K 7 4
H K Q 10 7
D K 5
C A J 10 6
S 2
H 9 6 3 2
D J 10 9 8
C 7 4 3 2
TableS J 10 9 8 5
H J 5
D A Q 6
C K Q 5
Lead: D JS A Q 6 3
H A 8 4
D 7 4 3 2
C 9 8

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

Dbl
2 NT
East
1 S
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
1 NT
3 NT

After East’s 1 S opening was passed, North was too strong for a balancing 1 NT so he doubled for takeout. South responded 1 NT; North invited game, and South accepted with his maximum.

Normally, it is wise to lead partner’s suit, but West was dissuaded by his singleton spade and struck gold with the D J. Declarer knew the ace was wrong so he ducked in dummy; East overtook with the queen, and played the D A and another as the defense ran the suit. Dummy threw two clubs and East a spade.

West shifted to a club, taken by the ace. On the run of the hearts East was hopelessly squeezed, and declarer won the rest — making 3 NT.

What went wrong? East forgot to count declarer’s tricks. It should be obvious declarer can win at most four hearts, three spades and one club — eight tricks — so there was no hurry to run the diamonds. Patience!

The simplest course is to lead the C K at trick two, which sinks declarer’s ship. If he runs the hearts, East can discard a club and a spade painlessly, and as soon as East gains the lead the contract can be set.

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© 1998 Richard Pavlicek