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Overcall Tips Off Winning Play

  by Richard Pavlicek

The Grand National Pairs is a multistage event conducted annually by the American Contract Bridge League. Qualifying began last month at the local club level, and eligible pairs will compete at the county level in October. This is followed by the state finals in November and, to the lucky ones, the national finals next March in Portland, Oregon. From an original entry of tens of thousands of pairs will emerge one winner — quite a prestigious accomplishment! Today’s deal occurred at the qualifying level.

4 H South
E-W Vul
S Q 3
H Q 9 2
D K 6 5 4
C K 10 4 3

1 S

2 H
4 H

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

Lead: D Q
S A 2
H K 8 7 6 4
D A 3
C A 8 7 2

After South’s “five-card major” opening bid, West overcalled in spades and North offered a single raise. South tried for game by bidding a different suit (most good players have abandoned the old-fashioned one-two-three game try) and North accepted with his maximum raise.

After West’s diamond lead, declarer’s prospects were not good; it seemed likely that two hearts, a club and a spade would be lost. But there were chances. Declarer placed West with the spade king and (almost surely) the heart ace for his vulnerable overcall. Perhaps he could force West to lead away from his spade king if he timed the play correctly.

The diamond ace was taken and a low heart was led toward the queen, forcing West to play low (he would lose a trick outright if he hopped with the ace). Trumps were now abandoned. The diamond king was cashed, followed by a diamond ruff. Then came the ace and king of clubs and another diamond ruff as West cleverly refused to overruff.

Declarer exited with the heart king (not a small heart!), and West was a goner. After cashing his third trump, the forced spade return gave declarer an extra trick and the time to establish his long club.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek