This deal from the U.S. Bridge Championships last month posed a challenge that might go beyond expert play. As South, my 1 opening left something to be desired (a different hand?), but it seemed too good for a weak two-bid at favorable vulnerability or maybe I counted extra for forty jacks. North, Hugh Ross, responded 1 NT (forcing, 6-14 HCP in our system), I rebid my spades, and the obvious game was reached.
Wests diamond lead ran to my jack. The urgency was to attack clubs in case the K were offside (to build an early heart discard) so I led the J; king, ace. Everything felt cozy now, so I led a trump. Wouldnt you? Easts show-out was a bit of a shock, and I then realized the predicament I was in. The contract could no longer be made legitimately.
West should win the first spade lead and return his last club, won in dummy. On the next spade, West must duck to break my communication, then he takes the third spade and leads a low heart. There is no way I can stop East from gaining the lead in hearts to play a third club, which promotes the 8 into the setting trick.
Should I have foreseen this? Had I led a heart (preferably low) at trick three, this would sever the enemy communication; then it would be clear sailing to drive and draw trumps. Perhaps its a better play, but there are other dangers such as a bad heart break.
The good news is that I got a reprieve. West decided to duck the first spade lead. (In fairness, he could not know his partner held the Q so the winning defense is not easy.) Whew! Now I was able to duck a heart before proceeding to draw trumps.
© 2001 Richard Pavlicek