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Weak Trumps Cause Undue Alarm

  by Richard Pavlicek

Everyone occasionally reaches a contract with a weak trump suit, and the natural tendency is to shy away from leading that suit during the play. Postmortems are rife with excuses like, “Sorry partner, but I was afraid to draw trumps because they were so weak.” This thinking is totally wrong.

Instead of commiserating, “How did I get in this mess?” you should be plotting, “How can I get out of it?” The solution is usually to lead trumps. In general, the weaker your trumps, the more desirable it is to lead that suit so the enemy high trumps fall together. Otherwise, the opponents will win their high trumps separately.

Today’s deal, from a local team game, is a good case in point. South correctly felt his 15-point hand was worth a one-notrump opening because of the abundance of tens, and North responded two-clubs (the Stayman convention) to ask for a four-card major. This resulted in a reasonable four-heart contract. South was a little concerned that his trump suit was only jack-high, but he expected his partner to have at least one of the missing honors.

4 H South
E-W Vul
S K Q 8 2
H 7 4 3 2
D 8 5
C A 6 2


2 C
4 H

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

Lead: D 4
S A 3
H J 10 6 5
D A K 10 3
C Q J 10

West led a diamond and, when North laid down 7-4-3-2 in trumps, South was mentally defeated. He tried to salvage whatever he could by ruffing a diamond in dummy, but East overruffed to defeat the contract. South dismissed the incident with “Sorry, partner, my trumps weren’t strong enough…” and everyone went on to the next deal.

South went down in a cold contract. Four hearts required only a successful club finesse and a normal trump break. There was no urgency to ruff a diamond in dummy (one diamond could be ruffed later and the other discarded on a spade winner).

All declarer had to do was lead trumps.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek