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Old Deal Deserves a Second Look

  by Richard Pavlicek

Last summer when I was in Baltimore, a student asked me about his misfortune on today’s deal, which he had jotted down on a scrap of paper. North’s two-heart response was a Jacoby transfer bid, showing spades, and South elected to jump the bidding with his fine hand. North would have been content with two spades, but sparked by South’s ambition he continued to game. East extracted an extra pound of flesh with a risky penalty double.

4 S× South
Both Vul
S Q 10 6 5 4
H K 4
D 6 5
C 8 7 6 2


2 H
4 S

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

Lead: D J
S K 8 3 2
H A J 3 2
D A K 7

West led the diamond jack to the king, and declarer played a low spade to the queen and ace. East cashed his club winners and exited with a club to wait for his second trump trick.

I explained that the bidding was fine and that four spades was a fair contract, essentially needing an even spade break, but could not be made on the actual deal. East was lucky after his foolish double to find the spade 10 in dummy, ensuring his A-J-9 was worth two tricks.

Or was it? Did East really own a piece of the rock? I recently looked at that scrap of paper more carefully and noticed this line: Win the diamond and lead a club to East. Assume East cashes his second club and returns a diamond. Ruff a diamond; ruff a club; heart king; heart ace; and ruff a heart as both defender’s follow suit. Lead dummy’s last club and ruff with the eight to prevent an overruff by West.

The stage is now set. North remains with Q-10-6 in spades, East has A-J-9, and South has K-3 and a heart. Lead the heart and ruff with the queen. If East overruffs, he is endplayed in spades; if he underruffs, South must still win the spade king. Either way, East makes only one spade trick — his ace.

In fairness, if declarer is going to play with all that brilliance, so might East. After winning the first club trick, he can defeat the contract by leading trumps (and continuing when he wins the second club). This sacrifices his chance for two trump tricks, but it stops declarer from ruffing two clubs. As I said: You can’t make four spades.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek