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Overbid Has Happy Ending

  by Richard Pavlicek

My wife, Mabel, showed me today’s deal from a local duplicate game. As South she reached four spades after her partner’s aggressive final bid — translation: overbid — but it was difficult to evaluate the potential of the singleton diamond and long club suit. Hence, the old standby: When in doubt bid game.

4 S South
E-W Vul
S K 10 3
H Q 8 2
D 7
C J 10 9 7 5 2

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

Lead: C 8
S Q J 9 8 7 6
H K 3
D A 8 5 4

West led the club eight to East’s ace, and East returned the diamond queen to South’s ace. Declarer saw two chances: (1) Try to ruff three diamonds in dummy, or (2) try to establish the club suit by taking a ruffing finesse through East, who was marked with the queen by West’s lead. Either line of play might succeed, but neither could be relied on due to the lack of communication.

Declarer decided her best chance was to force out the heart ace first, so she led the heart three from her hand. West ducked as expected, and dummy’s queen won. Declarer next led the club jack, East ducked (lest the entire club suit be established), and South discarded the heart king. Two heart ruffs and two diamond ruffs then locked the contract.

Did West misdefend? Did East misdefend? Or (heaven forbid) was my wife’s line of play unbeatable? There is only one “yes” answer among them. Place your bets!

It appears that West might defeat the contract by hopping with the heart ace to lead the ace and another trump. But no; declarer can win in dummy, take one ruffing club finesse (East must duck), cross to the heart king, ruff a diamond, and discard her last diamond on the heart queen — 10 tricks.

East was the culprit. As the play went he should cover the club jack with the queen. Establishing the club suit was less critical than letting declarer get a fast discard. Declarer ruffs this, but is unable to benefit. If trumps are led, West grabs the ace and returns a diamond to make dummy ruff.

Actually, East erred much earlier. After winning the club ace, a trump return (West plays ace and another) seals declarer’s fate completely. With the actual diamond return, my wife could have succeeded by leading the heart king (an exercise for the reader), but let’s keep that a secret lest I fix my own dinners this week.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek