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Key Defense Missed

This deal from the Bracketed Knockout Teams in Cincinnati caused some heated discussion. After a routine opening bid and overcall, West made a “very negative” double, North raised his partner’s suit, and East took a stab at 3 NT based on his powerful clubs. This contract would have been set two tricks, but South overbid to four spades, and East doubled.

4 S× by South

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

West

Dbl
Pass
North

2 S
Pass
East
1 C
3 NT
Dbl
South
1 S
4 S
All Pass

West led his partner’s club suit, and East shifted to a trump at trick two, won by the king. Declarer next won the H A and gave up a heart to West (East pitched a club); then the diamond shift was won by the ace. For the next four tricks, East was helpless as declarer crossruffed hearts and clubs. Finally, when a good heart was led from dummy, East ruffed and South pitched his losing diamond — making four spades doubled.

“Just lead a trump and we beat it two tricks!” East berated his partner. “Or at least lead the club jack so I can let you hold the lead for a diamond switch.”

“Sorry,” admitted West, “I just made a normal lead. I could have avoided this ugly mess if I just passed one spade. But I think you could have beaten it yourself.”

“There was nothing I could do,” argued East.

West was right. There were actually two ways for East to beat the contract. The simplest was a club return at trick two, which kills an entry to dummy and prevents declarer from establishing a long heart. But even after the trump shift, the defense could prevail with a spectacular gambit: East must ruff the second heart with his natural trump trick and lead his last trump.

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek