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Declarer Lured by Defensive Trap

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal caused quite a controversy when it occurred in a recent rubber bridge game. North went into a tirade when South went down in a cold three-notrump contract after falling victim to a clever defensive play.

The bidding was standard. South’s jump to three diamonds was game forcing, and North bid his heart suit to indicate a stopper. This was welcome news to South, and the auction ended in three notrump.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S 4 3
H A Q 8 6
D A 10 9 6
C K 7 4

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

Lead: S Q
S A 8 5
H 3 2
D K J 8 3
C A Q J 2

West led the spade queen: three, nine, five; then continued with the spade 10 on which East played the king as South ducked again. The spade two was returned to South’s ace and dummy let go a heart. Declarer was anxious to keep West off lead so he cashed the diamond king and led the jack for a finesse, losing to East. This was sound technique because West might have started with five spades, in which case East would have none left. If West held only four spades, the suit was not dangerous.

East was in no hurry to book declarer, so he baited a trap: He did not return his last spade. Instead he exited with a diamond, taken in dummy as West threw a club. South now had his contract secure — one spade, one heart, three diamonds and four clubs — but was convinced that East held no more spades. Seeing a “risk-free” chance for an overtrick, he returned to his hand with a club and took the heart finesse. Ouch! East pounced on this like a cat on a goldfish, and the spade return scuttled the cold contract.

South deserved every bit of criticism he received. There is no excuse at rubber bridge for risking one’s contract for an overtrick. Actually, declarer did have a risk-free play for the overtrick by cashing all his winners ending in the South hand. With two cards left, the heart finesse would be logical (and safe) only if West discards two spades, which cannot happen as the cards lie. Therefore, the finesse is illogical.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek