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Replay Shows Self-Inflicted Blow

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from a local team-of-four event, resembled a boxing match that pitted distribution versus high cards. Ding! Round one began as South opened his distributional hand and West doubled with 20 HCP. North barely had enough to respond one heart, the proper reply with four-four in the major suits.

4 S× South
None Vul
S Q J 10 9
H Q 7 6 3
D J 8 5 4
C 2


1 H
2 S

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

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

Ding! South showed his spade suit, West doubled again, and North raised to show his four-card trump support. Ding! South leaped to game with his exciting shape, West echoed his previous sentiments, and the bidding was completed.

As is often the case, the distribution did all the bidding; the high cards did all the doubling. So far the fight was about even; it would have to be decided in the play.

West led the heart king, ruffed; then ace and a club ruff put dummy on lead. Declarer ruffed a heart and ruffed another club to establish the suit; but by this time his trumps were reduced to A-K opposite Q-J, so it was impossible to draw the enemy trumps. The best declarer could do was to make his trumps separately on a crossruff — eight ruffs plus the club ace — and go down one… and out for the count. Score it as a knockout for the high cards.

Hold everything! Back up the video tape… in slow motion please. Just as I suspected: Declarer knocked himself out. The contract should be made with a trump-sacrificing maneuver to maintain control.

Instead of ruffing the second heart, declarer should overtake the spade 10 with his king to ruff another club; then overtake the spade queen with the ace. This leaves declarer with the lowly spade four (West still has the eight), but it allows the long club suit to be enjoyed. South leads clubs until West ruffs with his high trump, after which South must regain the lead to win whatever clubs remain. Only two diamonds and one trump trick are lost.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek