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Tough Defense Is Mark of an Expert

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams, the premier event of the Spring North American Championships held last month in Montreal.

The bidding requires some explanation. South’s three-club bid was the “fourth suit forcing” treatment popular among tournament players (it did not necessarily show a real club suit) and North’s three-diamond bid was a waiting bid (it did not promise more than four diamonds). South’s three-spade bid then invited game and North, having slightly extra high-card strength, accepted by raising to four spades. This was a reasonable contract and usually would make as the cards lie.

4 S South
Both Vul
S 4 3
H A K Q 10
D A Q 10 4
C 9 8 3

1 H
2 D
3 D
4 S
1 S
3 C
3 S
S K Q 6
H J 6 5
D J 9 3 2
C 7 6 2
TableS 10 2
H 9 8 7 4 3
D K 8 6
C K Q 10

Lead: C 2
S A J 9 8 7 5
H 2
D 7 5
C A J 5 4

Sitting West was Bernie Chazen of Tamarac, one of the country’s leading players. He began by leading the club two (indicating an odd number of clubs according to his partnership agreement) and East’s queen was captured by the ace. Declarer led a heart to dummy’s ace, cashed the heart king (discarding a club), and then led a spade to the nine and queen. Many defenders now would have continued clubs, making declarer’s play easy; but West read the situation accurately and shifted to a diamond.

Not wanting to risk the diamond finesse, declarer rose with dummy’s ace and discarded his remaining diamond on the heart queen. The fall of West’s jack left declarer with no less than three options: he could (1) take another spade finesse, (2) lead a club, or (3) lead the heart 10 to discard a club loser.

After some thought, declarer chose (3) — wrong. West ruffed and led a club to his partner’s king, after which another heart lead promoted West’s spade king into the setting trick. Only the second option would have succeeded for declarer.

Chazen’s team, which included another Broward County player, Gene Ouimet of Hollywood, went on to finish third in this difficult event.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek