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The Battle For Trump Control

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal may not look spectacular. Slams are exciting, but few three-spade contracts make the newspaper. Nonetheless, it struck my fancy because of its lesson pointers — both as declarer and a defender — in the battle for trump control. The deal occurred last Sunday at the Pompano Beach Bridge Club during a qualifying round for the Grand National Team Championship.

3 S South
E-W Vul
S 9 8 4 3
H 9 8 7 4 3
D 5
C A J 9


1 H
2 S
3 S

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

Lead: S 2
S K Q 10 7
D A K 9 6 4 3
C 4 3

The recommended bidding is shown. North barely has enough for a one-heart response; but his hand improves when South bids spades, so the raise to two spades is justified. South bids three diamonds to describe his shape and invite game, and North rejects. In real life the contract was one spade at one table and four at the other, but the play is the thing. Assuming best defense, can declarer win nine tricks in spades?

At both tables West led a trump, but the paths parted. At one table East won the ace and returned a trump, taken by South. The diamond ace was cashed, followed by a diamond ruff and a trump back to the South hand. When the diamonds did not split, a diamond was conceded to West to establish the suit and nine tricks were won. Too easy.

At the second table East ducked the spade lead, allowing South to win the seven. Declarer cashed ace-king of diamonds (throwing a heart) and ruffed a diamond with the spade eight, on which East discarded a club. (If East overruffs, declarer can set up and use the diamond suit.) A heart was led and declarer finished with only eight tricks. Was it the fine defense? Or could declarer have played better? Place your bets!

Declarer can succeed after the trump lead, but the road is a murky one — there are no yellow bricks. Win the spade seven; ace-king of diamonds (throw a club); ruff a diamond (East discards a club); spade taken by the ace; heart; heart (discard a club); ruff the next heart; ruff a diamond (again East must discard); heart ruff; diamond nine (throw a club) and the dummy is good after East ruffs.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek