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Faulty Play Spoils Superb Bidding

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from a local duplicate game, provides a good lesson in both bidding and play. The auction is exemplary of a fine partnership. After South’s two-spade rebid, North could envision a grand slam if his partner’s spade suit were headed by the ace-queen (in all probability, the heart suit could be established by a ruff if necessary); hence, the jump to five notrump.

This bid, known as the “grand slam force,” requests partner to bid a grand slam if his trump suit contains any two of the top three honors (A-K, A-Q, or K-Q). South obliged by bidding seven spades, but he fell from grace in the play.

7 S South
None Vul
S K J 2
H A K 9 7 5 4 3
D A 4 3


2 H
5 NT

1 S
2 S
7 S
S 9 8 7
D Q J 10 8
C J 9 8 7 3
TableS 6
H Q 10 8 6
D K 7 6
C K 10 6 5 2

Lead: D Q
S A Q 10 5 4 3
H 2
D 9 5 2
C A Q 4

West attacked by leading the diamond queen to dummy’s ace, and declarer began by drawing two rounds of trumps (leaving a high trump in dummy). This play would have been fine if the heart suit divided three-two, but the actual lie of the cards proved fatal. Declarer could not establish the heart suit with one ruff, and the contract was doomed.

An expert declarer would have realized the possibility of a four-one heart break and drawn only one round of trumps with the ace (leaving the king-jack in dummy). The danger of leaving two enemy trumps outstanding is illusory — if an opponent is void in hearts, the contract is hopeless no matter how declarer plays.

A heart is led to dummy’s king and a small heart is ruffed with the spade ten. A spade is then led to dummy’s jack and another small heart is ruffed with spade queen. (Observe the importance of saving the heart ace until later, and ruffing with high trumps to prevent an overruff.) Finally, the last trump is drawn with dummy’s king and declarer can enjoy four discards on the established heart suit. In all declarer wins six spades, five hearts, and the two minor-suit aces — 13 tricks.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek