Main     Article 7H99 by Richard Pavlicek    

Play or Defend?

I was West on this deal from the Chicago Summer Nationals, and my son Rich was East. Our opponents bid routinely to 4 H on the auction shown. I had a tough choice of opening leads and decided on the C A, which was fortunate. Note that after a diamond or trump lead, declarer can succeed easily by establishing dummy’s fourth diamond for a spade discard.

4 H by South

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



1 S
4 H
All Pass
1 H
2 H

Question: Would you rather play or defend? That is, after the C A lead, can 4 H be made with best play, or can it be beaten with best defense?

On my C A Rich played the four — a good play to discourage a continuation despite holding the king-jack — so at trick two I switched to the S 6; ten, jack, ace. Declarer drew trumps in two rounds and led the S 2; seven, three, five. I led a third spade to trap the queen, and there was no way for declarer to succeed. So it seems you should defend, right?

Well, no. The contract can be made with a clever sequence of plays. After winning the S A, declarer draws trumps and must unblock the H J. Next a club is led to East, who has only one safe exit: a low diamond to the jack, ace. Then declarer leads all of his trumps to reach a three-card ending. North remains with the S Q and D K-10. If East keeps the S K and D Q-8, he is thrown in with a spade for the endplay; or if he blanks the D Q, declarer can drop it.


© 1998 Richard Pavlicek