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Elopement Play Eliminates Loser

  by Richard Pavlicek

When today’s deal occurred in a local duplicate game, it was bid as shown at most tables. East overcalled North’s one-club opening in his strong heart suit and South responded one spade. As many people play, this showed at least a five-card spade suit because a negative double would be made with four. I recommend this approach, though it made no difference here, since North held four-card support. After a routine raise to two spades, South jumped to game.

4 S South
None Vul
S A K 7 2
H 4 3
D 6 5 4
C A J 7 3

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

Lead: H 8
S 10 8 6 5 4
H A 9 7 5
D A K 2
C 4

This proved to be a flat board, as every North-South pair reached four spades and made 10 tricks, losing a spade, a heart and a diamond. The result is not surprising since the three mentioned losers appear to be inevitable no matter how declarer plays. But, as is so often the case, the untrained eye can be deceived. Through a technique known as “trump elopement” declarer can eliminate the diamond loser; or more accurately, combine the spade and diamond losers into a single trick.

Declarer wins the heart lead (capturing East’s 10) and begins his campaign with a club to the ace and a club ruff. Dummy is entered with the spade king to ruff another club, and with the spade ace to ruff the last club. South then exits with the heart nine to East, who does best to return a diamond to South’s king.

Declarer has already eloped with his own trumps (by ruffing clubs) and now it is dummy’s turn. A heart is led and ruffed in dummy when West discards a diamond. Note that West cannot profit by ruffing in front of dummy with his high trump — declarer just throws a diamond. Finally, a diamond is led to the ace to lead the last heart, completing the elopement. The last diamond in dummy is happily conceded to East’s queen and West’s high trump. Let them fight over it!

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© 1986 Richard Pavlicek