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729. Dealer South. NS Vul.

West led the king of spades, which declarer ducked. As it was fairly obvious that declarer had the ace and jack of spades (the king lead had asked East to unblock an honour), West shifted to the ten of hearts. Declarer took this in hand with the queen and played a diamond to dummy’s queen and East’s king. East exited with a low heart, marking the spades as 6-1. Declarer took the trick on the table with the king of hearts and played a diamond to his jack and West’s ace.

West got off play with a third round of hearts, which declarer took in hand with the ace. Declarer now cashed the ten of diamonds. After West discarded a spade, declarer paused to consider his position. He had eight certain tricks and had lost three, so he could afford only one more loser. Furthermore, the ninth trick could only come from an endplay in spades. If that was to happen, West’s original distribution would have to have been 6=3=2=2. Declarer’s next move was to cash the ace and king of clubs, which confirmed the hoped-for count of West’s hand. Declarer was about to play a low spade from his hand when he saw that West could avoid the endplay by allowing dummy’s nine of spades to win the trick, leaving East to take the last two club tricks with the queen and nine.

Instead, declarer played the nine of diamonds and threw the nine of spades from dummy. Only then did declarer advance the five of spades. West took the trick with the eight of spades but then had to return a spade into declarer’s ace-jack tenace. As a result, declarer had nine tricks: two spades, three hearts, two diamonds and two clubs.

730. Dealer East. EW Vul.

West led the queen of hearts, which East overtook with the king to play the three of diamonds. Declarer was certain that this was a singleton and that East was expecting to gain the lead with the king of trumps, with the idea of trying to cross to West’s jack of hearts to receive a diamond ruff.

The bidding and play to date suggested that East would have both black kings; otherwise East would have opened on a ten count. Declarer did not fancy playing ace and another trump for that would rely on a 2-2 trump break and East beginning with a 2=5=1=5 shape. As it was far more likely that East began with only three or four clubs, declarer took the diamond shift in dummy and ran the queen of clubs. He continued by playing a club to the ace, then returned to dummy’s ace of trumps to lead the jack of clubs. When East covered this with the king declarer discarded his remaining heart.

This loser-on-loser manoeuvre removed the possibility of a diamond ruff by killing the entry to West’s hand. Seeing no future in hearts, East continued by play a fourth round of clubs. Declarer ruffed high then forced out the king of trumps. All he lost was one trump, one heart and one club.

731. The following deal was played in a teams match –both tables had the same auction and opening lead.
Dealer South. Both Vul.

The first declarer took the lead of the king of diamonds with the ace as East played the ten of diamonds. Next he cashed the ace and king of trumps, finding that the trumps were 4-1. As he could not afford to draw all of the trumps, declarer played a low heart next. East was on the ball and rose with the ace of hearts to lead a club. West ruffed then led a low diamond to East’s advertised nine and received a second ruff in return.

While this declarer bemoaned his luck, the contract was made at the other table. The second declarer let the king of diamonds hold the first trick. After winning the diamond continuation, declarer played the ace and king of trumps. He saw that only East was the danger hand if he held the ace of hearts and five clubs. So, he played a heart next. If East rose with the ace and gave his partner a ruff then declarer would get a heart trick as compensation for the ruff. After East decided to play low declarer’s king won the trick. Then South drew West’s trumps and ran the clubs for his contract.

732. Dealer West. Both Vul.

South promised a balanced hand of around 19 points with a spade stopper with his reopening jump to two notrump. His partner used Stayman to investigate the possibility of an eight-card heart fit before settling in the notrump game.

West led the queen of spades and declarer took this in hand. After playing a heart to the ace, South came back to hand with a club to play a heart to the jack. East produced the queen of hearts and the contract could no longer be made. “That was unlucky,” was all declarer could say.

North was not so sympathetic. “There was no rush to play a heart to the jack. There was an extra chance in the hearts if you start by not cashing the ace of hearts and instead leading the three of hearts to the seven. If the queen of hearts is onside nothing will be lost: East will win the trick and you can try a heart to the jack on the next round. As the cards lie, the seven of hearts would have forced the queen of hearts since West had started with the ten and eight.”

Ever one to flog a dead horse, North continued, “This is equivalent to managing an ace-queen-nine combination opposite low cards. In that case, you finesse the nine first, in case the jack and ten are onside. If that fails, you fall back on a later finesse of the queen.”

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