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Tenuous Trump Tale

This deal, Board 61 of the finals of the U.S. Team Trials, caused quite a swing last month in Memphis. The same treacherous contract was reached at both tables after identical auctions.

As South, what would you do over 4 H? The cowardly route is to pass (4 H is down one with accurate defense); but with 6-5 shape it feels right to bid something. Both Souths concluded that 4 S was a better guess than 5 D, so the tenuous game was reached.

4 S by South

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

West
3 H
All Pass
North
4 C
East
4 H
South
4 S

Both West players led the H K, but then the play diverged. At one table, East signaled with the H 10 and West continued hearts. Declarer ruffed in dummy (pitching the C J) and cashed the S A. The contract could now be made with a first-round diamond finesse, but declarer crossed to the D A and led the S J to force out the queen. Declarer was tapped with another heart, and when the smoke cleared he was down three.

At the other table, East signaled with the H 2 at trick one, and West shifted to a club. Alas, East thought this was a singleton, so he won the ace and returned a club. Declarer accepted the free finesse (thank you), cashed the S A-K, crossed to the D A and forced out the S Q. The only way East could kill dummy’s clubs was to return the D Q, but this surrenders the whole diamond suit. Making 4 S for a 14-IMP swing.

It is curious that neither West shifted to the singleton diamond at trick two, but this would be ineffective, too. Declarer wins the D K (best to avoid guessing the diamond break when leading from dummy), unblocks the S A-K, finesses the D J and drives out the S Q; making easily.

The club shift is the only defense that works legitimately; however, after winning the C A, East must revert to hearts. Declarer takes the tap in hand to have any chance, but now he cannot draw trumps without losing control; down one at least.

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek