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Winning Defense Missed

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred during the Swiss team event at the July Fourth tournament at the Inverrary Hilton. The bidding may seem peculiar if you are unfamiliar with the Jacoby transfer bid, a popular method of responding to notrump bids invented by the late Oswald Jacoby.

4 H South
E-W Vul
H K 4 3
D Q 6 5 4
C A 8 7 2

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

Lead: D J
S J 9 7 3 2
H A Q 7 6 5
D 3
C Q 3

South’s two-heart response showed a five-card or longer spade suit and North was obliged to complete the “transfer” with two spades. Three hearts then showed five hearts — hence, five-five in the majors — and North chose the trump suit with the greater combined length.

West’s diamond jack won the first trick, and South ruffed the continuation. The ace and king of spades were unblocked, then declarer drew two rounds of trumps with the king and queen to reveal the four-one break. The fall of the spade queen, while friendly, made it clear that West still had a stopper, so declarer ruffed a spade with dummy’s remaining trump. This was overruffed, but East was always entitled to a trump trick, so no problem. Declarer ruffed the diamond return, drew the last trump, and won two good spades to make his contract.

Did you spot the error? East could have defeated the contract by not overruffing the third round of spades. This retains his trump length equal to South’s and forces declarer to lose trump control. Dummy is out of trumps at this point so the only way declarer can get to his hand is by ruffing, after which East will have more trumps than South. The end result is that declarer cannot enjoy either of his spade winners.

A question remains: Could declarer have made the contract legitimately in some other way? My analysis shows it is makable by the curious play of discarding a club instead of ruffing the second diamond lead. The defense must continue diamonds, so ruff; spade A-K; diamond ruff; spade ruff, and there is no effective defense. Of course this is based on seeing all four hands, and would be dubious in practice.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek