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Declarer Avoids Trap in Slam

  by Richard Pavlicek

One of the major events in last month’s Gold Coast Holiday Tournament was the Seniors Knockout Teams, open to players age 55 and over. This was captured by Julian and Gracie Gabbai of Ft. Lauderdale, and William Seamon and Barbara Brier of Miami — all of whom are no strangers to the winners’ circle. Today’s deal was instrumental to their victory.

6 H South
None Vul
S A K Q 3 2
H Q 10
D 7 4
C A 10 5 2


1 S
4 NT
6 H

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

Lead: S 7
S 9 4
H A K J 9 7 6
D A Q 3
C Q 3

Julian Gabbai, South, opened one heart and Seamon, North, responded one spade. South jumped to three hearts to show his extra strength, and this prompted North to bid a slam after routinely checking for aces with the Blackwood convention. Six hearts was an excellent contract, but the foul distribution of the East-West cards placed it in jeopardy. Gabbai had to do play precisely to bring it home.

West led a spade, taken by the ace, and declarer could count 11 easy tricks. It was apparent from West’s failure to lead an unbid suit that his lead was probably a singleton; so declarer rejected the routine play of drawing trumps and establishing the spade suit. Instead he tried the diamond finesse, which was relatively safe because it kept East off lead.

If West had returned a club or a diamond, declarer could score his 12th trick with a diamond ruff; but West led a heart, setting up a trap: If declarer now tried to ruff a diamond, he would be stranded in dummy and forced to surrender a spade ruff. Gabbai was not about to fall for that, so he continued to draw trumps — in fact he led all but one of his trumps, discarding three clubs from dummy.

In the meantime East was forced down to six cards, and he kept J-10-8-6 in spades and K-8 in clubs. East still had everything under control; but declarer next played the diamond ace, and this was the cruncher. If East let go a spade, dummy’s spade suit could be established with one ruff; so East threw a club. Declarer took the top spades (throwing a diamond) and then laid down the club ace. Bingo! Making six hearts.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek