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What’s the Game?

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is contrived, and to my knowledge never occurred. A typical standard auction would result in South becoming declarer in three notrump, and we’ll assume that West leads the spade king since both red suits were bid. Declarer has seven top tricks. He is able to establish an eighth trick by playing on hearts or diamonds; but there is no way to come to a ninth trick against proper defense. No matter how well you can play, three notrump cannot be made.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S 10 2
H A K 5 4 3
D K 10
C A 8 6 3

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

Lead: S K
S A 9 7
H 8 7
D A 6 4 3 2
C K 5 2

So what game can be made? Make a guess before reading on, and later you might stump your friends who do not read this column.

Your guess was probably four hearts, a likely candidate in a five-two trump fit. But no, it cannot be made. There are eight easy tricks: three natural trump winners plus the aces and kings in the side suits. Declarer can obtain a ninth trick with careful play, but the 10th trick will elude even the finest declarer. Try again.

Five diamonds? Or five clubs? Either contract seems improbable since an additional trick is required. And you’re right; five of a minor is out of the question. Well, what’s left? You guessed it — four spades is the only makable game. In a three-two trump fit!

Assume West makes the best lead of the spade king. Win the ace and cash all of your top tricks in the side suits, ending in the North hand. Lead a heart and ruff with the spade seven (unless East ruffs with the eight, then simply overruff); ruff a diamond with the spade ten; then ruff another heart with the spade nine. The opponents are helpless to prevent this, and declarer escapes with 10 tricks — as Ripley would say, believe it or not.

Bridge can be quite perplexing. Just when you think you understand it, a deal like this comes along.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek