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Urge To Grab King Gives Contract

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from a recent tournament, emphasizes the importance of the card-play technique known as “second hand low.” Each trick is composed of four plays: the lead (first hand), followed by second, third and fourth hands. In general, third and fourth hands should try to win the trick; but second hand should not because his partner (fourth hand) has yet to play.

4 H South
None Vul
S Q 9
H K Q 3 2
D A J 5
C K 7 4 3
1 S
4 H
3 H
S K 8 7 5 4
H 10 8 7
D K 10 8
TableS J 3
H 9 4
D Q 9 4 3
C J 10 9 6 5

Lead: H 8
S A 10 6 2
H A J 6 5
D 7 6 2
C 8 2

Four hearts was reached with sound bidding. North made a takeout double of West’s one-spade opening, South bid three hearts and North continued to game. South’s bid may seem aggressive, but remember that he was forced to respond with no points at all; the presence of two aces and a jack warranted the jump response.

West chose a safe trump lead (good strategy) rather than risk losing a trick in another suit. (The middle card was led to begin a high-low to show three trumps.) Declarer won with the jack and led a low spade toward dummy’s queen. West hopped with the king (else he would lose it) and returned another trump, taken in dummy with the king.

Declarer cashed the spade queen, noting with pleasure that East’s jack fell, then returned to his hand with the heart ace. The ace and 10 of spades were cashed to discard two diamonds, and a club was led toward the king to ice the contract. In all declarer won five trumps (counting a ruff), three spades, one diamond and one club.

Actually it was West, not South, who made the contract when he grabbed the spade king. He was so concerned about not losing his king that he overlooked the entire deal; a loss in one suit is usually a gain in another. All he had to do was follow the prescribed technique for second-hand play.

It would be instructive to the reader to lay out a deck of cards as in the diagram. Play out the deal when West ducks the spade lead and allows dummy’s queen to win. Declarer’s best chance is to lead a spade to the ace then a club toward the king; but routine defense will prevail. Declarer can win only nine tricks.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek