Column 7B93   Main

Bad Breaks

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from a recent duplicate game, seemed like a piece of cake when the dummy first appeared. After South’s two-notrump opening (showing 21-22 points), North wasted no time in bidding the slam. West led the heart jack and South won the queen, muttering to North, “Underbid, partner… we’re cold for seven.”

6 NT South
E-W Vul
S 7 4 2
H 8 3
D A K Q 9 8
C Q J 3


6 NT

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

Lead: H J
S A K J 3
D 5 4 2
C A K 9 2

This observation was short-lived when South led a diamond at trick two and West discarded a heart. The five-zero break left declarer with only 11 tricks (two spades, two hearts, three diamonds and four clubs). The only remaining hope for a 12th trick appeared to lie in spades so, after winning the diamond queen, declarer led a spade to the jack and West’s queen. West returned another heart and declarer was defeated when the spades did not break. Too bad.

Yes, but also deserved. Declarer should have succeeded in spite of the bad diamond break; in fact it is almost guaranteed. The basic plan is to duck a diamond to East and force him to return the suit into dummy’s strong holding; but before this can be done, East’s remaining cards must be removed.

After winning the diamond queen, declarer should cash four rounds of clubs (throwing a spade from dummy) and East must make two discards. East cannot part with a diamond (else declarer could establish the suit by ducking a diamond) so let us assume he discards a spade and a heart. Then the top spades are cashed and East must discard another heart for the same reason.

At this point East’s hand is an open book: He is known to have four diamonds left so his other card must be a heart. Cash the heart ace to remove his exit card then lead a diamond to the eight. East must win and return a diamond into the A-K-9 to give declarer his contract.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek