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733. Dealer South. EW Vul.

West led the three of trumps, suggesting that he might have held a doubleton in the suit. Declarer took East’s nine of spades with the ace, then played without much thought, crossing to dummy with the king of clubs to run the queen of diamonds. West won this with the king and exited with his remaining trump. Declarer took East’s jack with his king and cashed two diamond winners, discarding a club from the table. Next, he cashed the ace of clubs and ruffed a club. All would have been well if clubs had proved to be 3-3, but they were not and, after East had discarded a diamond, declarer could do no better than to play the ace and another heart. East took the trick with the queen of hearts and cashed the queen of spades, leaving declarer with a losing club as the fourth defensive trick.

When South complained about his bad luck, North was unsympathetic. “You should have played a low heart to the jack at trick two. East would have won to play a second trump to your ace. Next, you’d cross to dummy with the king of clubs to run the queen of diamonds to West’s king. Having no more trumps, West could have done no better than to exit with a heart to dummy’s ace. You would continue with the ace and jack of diamonds, discarding a club from dummy. Then you’d play the ace of clubs and ruff a club in the dummy, on which East would discard a diamond as there would be no advantage in overruffing with the jack of trumps. Then you would get back to hand by cashing the ace of hearts and ruffing a heart. Lastly, you could ruff your fourth club in the dummy. All you would have lost would have been a trump, a heart and a diamond.”

734. Dealer South. EW Vul.

West led a trump and declarer was allowed to win the trick with his nine. Declarer saw that ruffing clubs would not be successful after the trump lead and that it would be better to try to set up the heart suit. When declarer played the ten of hearts, West took it with the ace and exited with a second trump to dummy’s king. Next, declarer ran the queen of hearts, discarding a club from hand. While this gave up a trick, declarer was now in control in the race to set up and enjoy winners in hearts.

After some thought, West exited with a low club. East covered dummy’s queen of clubs with the king and this was won by declarer’s ace. Declarer saw that he needed two more entries to dummy, one to establish the hearts if they were 4-2, and the other to reach any heart winners. He achieved this by leading a low diamond to dummy’s queen, which left East with no winning option.

If East let the queen of diamonds hold, declarer would ruff a low heart high and return to dummy with a trump to run the hearts. So, East took the trick with the king of diamonds and exited with a club. Declarer ruffed this in dummy, ruffed a low heart with the jack of spades and drew East’s last trump with his queen. Declarer returned to dummy with the jack of diamonds to throw his remaining club on the jack of hearts. Declarer made five trumps, one heart, two diamonds, one club and one club ruff for ten tricks.

735. Dealer North. EW Vul.

West led the king of spades, taken by declarer with the ace. Declarer saw that with two losers outside trumps, the contract would be in danger only if the trumps broke 4-0. If that were the case, the only hope would be to make an extra trick in clubs before the defenders gained the lead. To enjoy that trick, declarer saw that he would need a quick late entry to the table, and that this could only be the king of trumps.

Thus declarer played an exploratory ace of trumps at trick two. When West discarded a spade, declarer put his backup plan into action by leading the queen of clubs, with the intention of running it if West had played low. However, West covered the queen with his king and dummy’s ace of clubs won the trick.

Next, declarer led dummy’s ten of clubs, planning to throw his spade loser if East had played low. In practice, East covered the ten of clubs with the jack and declarer ruffed. After returning to dummy with the king of trumps, declarer threw his spade loser on the established nine of clubs. Declarer could claim the contract then, losing only two trumps and the ace of diamonds.

736. Dealer East. Both Vul.

North’s cue-bid of two clubs promised a sound simple raise or better in spades. West led the queen of clubs and continued the suit to East’s king. Declarer ruffed in hand, then drew trumps with the ace and king. At trick five, appreciating the value of his eight of diamonds, declarer led a heart to the ace and ruffed dummy’s third club. The he returned again to dummy with the king of hearts and ruffed dummy’s last club.

The stage was set. Declarer exited from dummy with the jack of hearts, not caring who won it: he could afford one diamond loser. Had East won with the queen of hearts, he’d have been immediately endplayed, as happened in practice. However, had West won the jack of hearts with the queen, he’d also have been forced into leading diamonds. If he’d led the jack or ten, declarer would have covered with the queen, then won the king with the ace. The nine and eight would then have been equals against the other low honour. Had West exited with a low diamond, declarer was planning to let East’s ten or jack hold the trick, effectively endplaying that defender. Declarer lost just one trick in each side suit.

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