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705. Dealer South. EW Vul.

South promised a 25-27 point balanced hand with his rebid of three notrump.

After West led the jack of hearts, declarer could count top eight tricks. The main chances were that one of the major suits would turn out to be 3-3 or that East had the king of spades. Declarer took the opening lead with the queen of hearts and cashed the king of hearts. When East followed to the second heart, declarer played the ace of hearts and was not particularly surprised when East discarded a low club.

Declarer now turned his attention to the spade suit, and did so by correctly ducking a round of spades before taking any positive action in the suit. West won the trick with the eight of spades and cashed the good ten of hearts, on which declarer threw the five of diamonds from hand. Declarer took West’s diamond exit and played a low spade towards the dummy, intending to win with the ace and lead a spade from dummy. As it happened, West produced the king of spades and declarer now had two certain spade tricks for a total of nine tricks in all.

Declarer’s method of tackling spades succeeds when East holds the king and when West holds the king singleton, doubleton or tripleton. This offers around an 85% chance of a second spade trick, once the 4-2 heart break is factored into the calculations.

706. Dealer South. Both Vul.

This deal came up in a teams match and both declarers found themselves in four hearts after an identical auction where each North’s cue bid indicated a minimum of a traditional limit raise to three hearts, usually based on three-card support. As North was unlikely to have much wasted in spades, the game was bid at both tables.

At each table, West began with the king and ace of spades, while East signalled an odd number of cards in the suit.

The first declarer ruffed the second spade, drew trumps and ran the queen of clubs. When East won with the king of clubs and was able to produce a spade, this declarer finished up with only eight tricks.

The second declarer discarded a diamond loser on the second round of spades. After ruffing the third round of spades he drew trumps in four rounds before running the queen of clubs to East’s king. However, this was not a disaster as East had no spades left. As it did not matter which minor suit East returned, declarer claimed ten tricks through five trumps, two diamonds and three clubs.

Discarding the diamond at trick two was a simple loser-on-loser play to cater for trumps being 4-1 and the king of clubs being offside.

707. Dealer North. E-W Vul.

As a two-heart bid would have been a natural reverse, forcing for one round, North-South used a jump to three hearts as a mini-splinter try for game, agreeing spades and promising shortness in hearts.

West led the queen of clubs. Declarer took the trick with dummy’s king of clubs then cashed the ace of trumps, pleased to find that the suit was not 4-0. Now he could count at least four trump tricks and three tricks in the minors. As ruffing two hearts would bring the total to only nine tricks when the trumps were not 2-2, he set about establishing the diamond suit. He continued with the ace and king of diamonds, followed by a third round of the suit.

When East followed, declarer was about to ruff the trick with a low trump when the thought occurred to him, “If I ruff this, what will happen if West has three trumps and two diamonds?” The answer was, “West will overruff with the ten of spades, cross to his partner’s hand with the king of clubs and a fourth round of diamonds will promote West’s queen of spades.”

The solution to this problem came to declarer after a moment or two’s thought. He could avoid such a fate by discarding his losing club. If East could play a fourth round of diamonds then declarer would ruff low and the defenders could take at most two more tricks.

At the table, East tried to cash the king of clubs, which declarer ruffed. Next, a low heart was conceded and the defenders were without recourse. East won and played another club. Declarer ruffed, played a trump to the ace and ruffed a diamond with the jack of trumps, establishing a long card in the suit. All West could take was the queen of trumps.

Of course, had declarer ducked the opening lead of the club queen, won the continuation, whatever it was, drawn one round of trumps, then played a heart, he could not have been beaten on the lie of the cards.

708. Dealer South. Both Vul.

After West led the king of hearts, declarer could count only seven top tricks. As the lead had given him another potential trick in hearts, he needed only one extra trick in spades for his contract. So he took the lead with the ace of hearts and led a spade to his queen and West’s king.

West saw that the only hope for the defence was to shift to diamonds. So, he exited with the ten of diamonds, which was not a card welcomed by declarer. He tried dummy’s queen of diamonds but East covered it with the king. As there was little point in holding up in diamonds, declarer took his ace, cashed his clubs, and then tested the spades. As East had not discarded a spade, declarer could do no better than play a heart. Alas, West rose with the queen of hearts to play the nine of diamonds and East claimed the rest of the tricks for down one.

“That was unlucky,” moaned South. “Both kings were wrong.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” said North. “All you had to do was cross to hand at trick two and lead a low spade. If West takes the king of spades, you will have three spade tricks, enough for the contract. If the jack of spades wins the trick, you can then play the jack of hearts to establish your ten as the ninth trick.”

South was about to speak when North imperiously held up a hand and continued, “Even if East was able to take the jack of spades with the king you would still make nine tricks as he could not profitably attack diamonds from his side of the table. So, no matter what East might return at that point, you would have time to establish a heart trick before West could attack diamonds.”

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