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Think Before Playing to First Trick

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal arose in the Flight A Swiss Teams at the Mid-Atlantic Regional held in Raleigh, N.C., over the Memorial Day weekend. The bidding was the same at both tables: North overcalled West’s one-heart opening with two diamonds and then raised to game when South bid his spade suit. After a heart lead, both declarers failed in their attempt to make four spades.

4 S South
None Vul
S J 10 2
H 3
D A K Q J 8
C Q 9 6 4
1 H
2 D
4 S
2 S
S A 8 3
H K Q J 9 7
D 4 3
C A 10 7
TableS 9 4
H 10 6 2
D 10 9 5
C K J 8 3 2

Lead: H K
S K Q 7 6 5
H A 8 5 4
D 7 6 2
C 5

At one table declarer won the heart ace and immediately led a trump to dummy’s jack. The spade 10 was returned to West’s ace and West made the fine play of another heart, ruffed in dummy. It was now impossible for South to reach his hand to draw the outstanding trump, and the opponents were able to cash the setting trick before dummy’s long diamond suit could be used for discards. Down one.

At the other table declarer played differently, winning the heart ace and ruffing a heart in dummy. A low club was led to West’s ten, and West returned a low trump, won by dummy’s 10. Declarer came to his hand with a club ruff to ruff another heart, but the situation was hopeless. Being stranded in dummy, he still had to lose a heart and two trump tricks (West was bound to win the spade eight, either by ruffing or by forcing South to lose trump control). Also down one.

This deal emphasizes the importance of planning the play before playing to the first trick. Both declarers should have foreseen the dead ends they reached.

The correct play, although uncommon with a singleton in the dummy, is to duck the first heart lead. If West continues hearts, dummy ruffs (South saving his ace for later) and trumps are led to force out the ace. The rest is easy, although declarer must be careful to win the second round of trumps in his hand.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek