Todays deal occurred in the Swiss Team event at the recent Fourth of July tournament at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood. After Easts one-club opening, South was too strong for a one-notrump overcall and so began with a takeout double. This elicited a one-spade bid from North, and South jumped to two notrump to invite. North, who had promised nothing, carried on to game.
All would have been fine if West had led his partners suit; but club suits are always suspect, and West chose to lead a heart to the king and ace. This did not allow declarer time to set up any club tricks, so he had to concentrate on spades and diamonds.
He first cashed four rounds of diamonds (West discarding a club, East a club and a spade), and then led ace and another spade to dummys queen. If East had taken this trick, the contract would have succeeded; but East was on the ball. West had played high-low in spades to indicate an even number (obviously a doubleton), so East withheld his king.
This defense prevented declarer from reaching dummys fourth spade and the contract was doomed. Declarer could win only four diamonds, two spades and two hearts before Wests long heart suit became established.
Declarer went wrong when he offered East his spade king with no strings attached. Instead he should have led the spade nine to dummys queen without cashing the ace.
This would place East in an untenable position. If he won the king, declarer would have an entry to score dummys long spade; if he ducked, declarer could continue spades and finesse East out of his king. Either way, declarer would win three spade tricks exactly what he needs for his contract.
© 1985 Richard Pavlicek