Column 7B17   Main

A Communication Breakdown

  by Richard Pavlicek

The subject of communication and entries poses many problems at the bridge table, especially in the play of notrump contracts. Sometimes the solution is apparent; but on other occasions, like today’s deal, the pitfall is not so easy to spot.

3 NT SouthS 6 4WestNorthEastSOUTH
None VulH A 31 NT
D K J 9 6 5 2Pass3 NTPassPass
C 10 7 5Pass
S J 10 9 8 7TableS Q 2
H J 10 5 2H Q 9 7 4
DD A 10 7 4
C Q 9 6 3C K 8 2
S A K 5 3
H K 8 6
D Q 8 3
Lead: S JC A J 4

After South’s one-notrump opening, North correctly raised to game with only eight points. The six-card diamond suit rated to compensate for the point-count deficiency.

West led the spade jack to East’s queen (a proper unblocking play) and South won the king. It was obvious to everyone at the table that dummy’s diamond suit was the key to the hand.

Declarer led a low diamond and, when West showed out, played the jack from dummy. All would have been fine if East had won this trick, but East wisely held up his ace. The next two diamond tricks were won by South’s eight and queen as East obstinately refused to take his ace.

Declarer now had won three diamond tricks, but with only one entry to dummy (the heart ace) the rest of the suit was lost. This left declarer with only eight tricks and a puzzled feeling. What went wrong?

Our declarer played out of habit instead of carefully considering his communication problem. When West showed out on the first diamond lead, the layout was an open book and the continued holdup plays by East should have been foreseen. The correct play is to duck the first diamond lead (or finesse dummy’s nine) to force East to win the trick.

No return by East presents a problem — a heart is won with the king; a club is ducked to West to ensure a double stopper; a spade is won with the ace (or ducked). Then the diamond queen is led and East can take his ace whenever he wants.

The remainder of the diamond suit is easily established and the heart ace provides an entry to cash the long diamonds. Declarer wins nine tricks (two spades, two hearts, one club, and four diamonds) to fulfill his contract.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek