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Unblocking Play Foils Throw-In

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is another from the World Championship in Miami. West’s opening one-spade bid was a little weaker than accepted standards, but this follows the modern trend to get in the bidding early. North made a routine takeout double, and South chose a conservative response of two hearts — he might have jumped but was not proud of his flat distribution and 10 poor-quality points. When North offered a raise to three hearts, South could hardly refuse the game invitation and wisely suggested three notrump. North had the option to correct to four hearts; however, he was content with notrump and passed — a wise choice in view of the five-zero heart break.

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

Lead: S 5
S Q J 6
H A J 7 2
D 9 8 7
C Q 8 4

West led the spade five: nine, 10, jack; and declarer began with a heart to the king, discovering the lie of that suit, as West threw a spade. The heart three was returned for a finesse of the jack and West threw a club. Declarer was convinced that it would be futile to attack clubs — West was marked with the king from the bidding — so he decided his best chance lay in a throw-in play against West.

South continued with the diamond nine: jack, queen; then cashed the diamond ace. Unfortunately for declarer, West was Bill Root of Boca Raton, and the diamond king came tumbling down under the ace. Declarer cashed the spade ace and exited with a diamond; but thanks to West’s careful unblocking, East won the 10 and the contract was eventually down one.

Three notrump can be made with accurate play. It is necessary to play three rounds of diamonds early without allowing East to gain the lead to shift to the club jack. One sequence is to lead a diamond at trick two and duck when West plays the jack. Win the spade return, cash the heart king, finesse the heart jack, finesse and win both top diamonds, then return to hand with the heart ace. Unless West has unguarded the club king, exit with a spade, and even Mr. Root would be endplayed.

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek