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Wrong Ending

This deal from the Summer Nationals offered several opportunities for declarer to maneuver a 10th trick in spades. Would you have found a winning path?

South’s jump overcall in the passout seat was not weak but showed the ability to win seven tricks in spades (one less than the actual bid). North rated to provide three more, so he raised to game. The bidding was perfect, but declarer slipped in the play.

4 S by South

Both Vul
S A Q 3
H 6 4 3 2
D A 8 3
C 7 4 2
S 4 2
H A K Q 9 8
D Q 10 2
C K 10 9
TableS 7 5
H J 7 5
D J 9 7 6
C J 8 6 5
Lead: H KS K J 10 9 8 6
H 10
D K 5 4
C A Q 3

West
1 H
Pass
North
Pass
4 S
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 S

Declarer ruffed the second heart lead and drew two rounds of trumps ending in dummy. With trumps breaking 2-2, declarer next followed standard elimination technique: heart ruff; D K; D A; heart ruff; then he exited with his last diamond. The idea was to force West to lead a club into the A-Q.

Alas, West was alert to this and unblocked his D Q on the second round, allowing East to win the third diamond with the jack. East then carefully led the club jack (to retain the lead if South ducked), and the contract was set. Where did declarer go wrong?

A much better plan is use hearts as the throw-in suit, and this doesn’t even require trumps to split. The proper technique is to discard a diamond (loser on a loser) at trick two. Assume West shifts to a trump (best).

Of several paths to success, probably best is to ruff a heart and lead all your trumps, coming down to five cards. North keeps H 6 D A-8-3 C 7, and South has D K-5 C A-Q-3. Next cash the top diamonds ending in dummy, forcing West down to three cards. If he keeps a high heart and C K-x, exit with the last heart to endplay him; otherwise the C K must drop.

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek