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Overcoming a Blocked Suit

  by Richard Pavlicek

The Fall North American Championships concluded last Sunday in San Diego. Thousands of players from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico traveled to not-so-sunny Southern California (weather was miserable) to attend the 10-day tournament. The schedule included many events to satisfy players of all levels of skill. One does not need to be an expert to enjoy the challenge of duplicate bridge.

Today’s deal occurred in a secondary event, in which most of the participants were average players. The bidding was the same at most tables: North opened with a preemptive bid of three diamonds and South signed off in three notrump.

North DealsS 4WestNorthEastSouth
None VulH 8 23 DPass3 NT
D A K 7 6 5 3 2PassPassPass
C 8 6 4
S K 7 2TableS J 10 6 5 3
H Q 10 5 4H J 9 6
D JD Q 4
C Q J 7 5 2C K 9 3
S A Q 9 8
H A K 7 3
D 10 9 8
3 NT SouthC A 10

At first glance it appears that 11 tricks are available — one spade, two hearts, seven diamonds, and one club; but a closer look reveals the blockage in the diamond suit.

After the club-five lead to the king and ace, the play took several paths. At one table declarer tried to run the diamonds by cashing the ace-king, only to leave four good diamonds stranded in dummy.

At another table declarer did better by ducking the second round of diamonds to East’s queen. This allowed the diamond suit to be run; but alas, the opponents won four clubs and one diamond to defeat the contract.

Is there a solution? Yes, South should plan to discard one of his blocking diamonds on the club suit. After winning the club ace, South must return a club! If West cashes another club, South discards a diamond and later the diamond suit can be run. If West cagily returns a diamond (an expert play), declarer wins in dummy and leads a club himself to dispose of a diamond. Observe that East-West can win no more than four club tricks and the contract is made.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek