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745. Dealer East. EW Vul.
West led the nine of spades and East overtook it with the jack. Declarer noted that there were only twelve high card points missing and so he expected East to hold almost all of them. Declarer ducked the first round of spades, but took the second round to keep open his option of endplaying East with a spade later in the play.
When West followed at trick two the spades were marked as 2=5 (East/West were employing five-card majors). Declarer continued with three rounds of hearts, with East throwing a low club on the third round. After a diamond to the king, declarer played a diamond to jack and then cashed the ace of diamonds.
When East followed to the diamonds with the four, ten and queen of diamonds respectively, declarer was fairly certain that East’s initial shape was overwhelmingly favoured to be 5=2=3=3. If that were the case, then East’s remaining cards were three spade winners and two clubs. So declarer exited with his remaining spade. All East could do was to take his three spade winners but then had to lead into dummy’s acequeen of clubs.
746. Dealer South. Both Vul.
North’s transfer to four spades improved the contract positionally since a heart lead from East would have beaten four spades. Nevertheless, how would you play four spades after West has led the jack of clubs?
1. Texas Transfer to spades
You take the opening lead with the queen of clubs and play the ace and king of trumps, East turning up with a winner. Can you avoid three heart losers when the ace of hearts is offside? You continue with the king and ace of diamonds and ruff a diamond in the dummy. You return to your hand with the ace of clubs and lead your last diamond, West producing the queen. What now?
If you ruff this trick, you will have to lead a heart yourself. East will rise with the jack, to prevent you from inserting the seven to endplay West. The defenders will then claim three heart tricks to beat your game. Instead, you should discard a heart from dummy on the fourth round of diamonds. West is left on lead and must either lead a heart or give you a ruff-and-discard. It would not help East to ruff his partner’s diamond winner, of course, since you would then lose just one trump and two hearts.
747. Dealer South. Both Vul.
West began with the ace of hearts and continued with the king and five of the suit in response to East’s encouraging signal. Declarer ruffed the third heart low in the dummy, East following suit with his remaining pip. A trump to the ace revealed the 5=0 break and South then had to lose a diamond as well as a trump trick for down one.
“What rotten luck to get a 5=0 break,” moaned declarer.
True to form, his partner was not sympathetic.
“Nonsense! You should have discarded a diamond from dummy at trick four,” he offered. North continued, “This is pretty safe because you always have to lose a diamond and in playing this way you will get two low diamonds away from dummy, with the second one disappearing on the fourth round of clubs. East cannot damage you by playing a fourth round of hearts because then the jack of hearts will force West to ruff from his five-card length (discarding is just as ineffective for West). In that case dummy can overruff and from there it would have been routine to take ten tricks.”
North then added “Also, discarding a diamond on the third round of hearts would succeed if East began with a doubleton heart. He would ruff the trick but you would have the rest: five trumps, the ace of diamonds and four clubs. My suggested strategy swaps a diamond loser for a third heart loser. Also, it all but guarantees ten tricks no matter how the cards lie.”
748. Dealer South. Both Vul.
West led the king of hearts. Declarer could count nine winners and while a double finesse in clubs would offer around a 3:1 chance of success, declarer felt that he should be able to do better. He had recognised a classic sign of an elimination play as the way to make his tenth trick: plentiful trumps and a club suit that would benefit from such a plan.
The problem was the diamond suit. He asked himself, “How can I prevent East from gaining the lead while preparing the sought-after elimination?” He was able to come up with the winning answer – he ducked the king of hearts.
At trick two West shifted to a diamond, respecting East’s nine-of-hearts suit-preference signal. Declarer rose with the ace of diamonds then drew trumps with the king and ace. Next he played the ace and jack of hearts, discarding dummy’s two remaining diamonds. After winning with the queen of hearts West exited with a diamond, as he could not play a club without giving declarer his tenth trick. Declarer ruffed this in dummy then crossed back to hand with the queen of trumps to ruff his last diamond, thereby eliminating that suit.
As all of the preliminary work was complete, declarer played the jack of clubs from dummy next and passed it to West when East followed with a low card. After winning with the queen of clubs West had no winning option. He had to give declarer his tenth trick, either by conceding a ruff-and-discard with a heart exit or by leading a club into declarer’s tenace.