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Elopement Play Lands Sacrifice

  by Richard Pavlicek

Any competent bridge player is familiar with the sacrifice bid, a deliberate overbid with the expectation that the penalty incurred (when doubled) will be less than the opponents would have scored in their contract. Today’s deal, from a practice team match, brings out an added bonus: Sometimes the sacrifice bid makes.

5 C× South
E-W Vul
S 9
H A Q 8 2
D K J 3 2
C 10 7 6 5
1 S
4 S
5 C
2 S
3 C
S A K J 10 8 2
H K J 10 4 3
C 3
TableS Q 4 3
H 7 6
D 10 9 8 4
C K Q 8 4

Lead: S K
S 7 6 5
H 9 5
D A 7 6 5
C A J 9 2

West opened one spade, and North made a takeout double — skimpy, but his 1-4-4-4 shape was ideal. East raised to two spades, and South competed in clubs (rather than diamonds) because of the stronger suit quality. West jumped to game with his exciting distribution.

The spotlight turned to North, who would normally pass; he had already shown his hand, and it would be far-fetched to win 11 tricks in clubs. But the vulnerability was favorable, and West’s confident bidding implied that four spades would make (actually, it would not). So, North decided to sacrifice. Five clubs! Double!

West led the spade king and then shifted to the diamond queen in the hopes that East held the ace. No luck. South won the ace, ruffed a spade in dummy, and led a low trump to the nine, which won. South ruffed his last spade, then led the club 10; queen, ace, as West let go a spade.

At this juncture it appears that East will win a diamond and two trump tricks. but that’s all a mirage. Declarer took the heart finesse, cashed the heart ace, and led another heart; East (in a helpless bind) discarded a diamond and South ruffed. Declarer then cashed dummy’s top diamonds and led the last heart. Whether East ruffed high or low, South would score the club jack and make his contract.

Powerful stuff! Declarer’s technique — aptly known as a trump elopement — took care of East’s clubs and diamonds like a tornado in a confetti factory. Nonetheless, the contract could have been beaten if East had played the club queen (or king) the first time the suit was led.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek