As North on this deal from a recent IMP game, I was not happy with my bidding. South opened 1 and I chose to respond 1 NT (forcing) since my values were so minimal. When partner invited game with 2 NT, I started thinking: Perhaps my 10-9 would be golden; perhaps my diamond suit would be the key. Or perhaps I had lost my marbles! I took a chance on game.
Predictably, 4 was a poor contract; but West found an equally poor lead: a low spade. South captured the 10 with the ace and cashed two more spades, discarding a club from dummy. Next came the good 9, and West eagerly grabbed his doubleton J as dummy threw another club. Voila! The contract was now cold. A club could be ruffed in dummy and Easts K could be picked up with the repeated finesse.
Does this justify the bidding? Hardly. But it does bring to light a defensive error. Despite the unfortunate lead, West can set the contract if he ruffs the spade low. Whether North overruffs or discards, the defenders still have to get a trump trick (note Easts 8), two clubs (or one club and the 3) plus a diamond.
The underlying principle is clear. West should see that if he ruffs with the jack, dummy will shed a losing club, so the best this can do is break even. Ruffing low affords the only chance to gain.
© 1998 Richard Pavlicek