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Six Spades — Make It then Break It

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is a composition to pose a two-part problem. First, assume you become declarer in six spades after the auction shown — yes, it’s an overbid, but that is a composer’s license. West leads the king of clubs. How can the contract be made?

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


3 S
4 H
5 C
6 S

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

Lead: C K
S A 8 6 5 4 2
H 7 2
D A K 7 3
C 3

Perhaps you figured it out. The exact order of play is not critical, but the basic plan is to cash your side-suit winners and crossruff until you reach a three-card ending. West remains with K-9-7 in spades; you have A-8-6 in spades; dummy has the spade queen, a heart and a club. Lead a low spade to give West the lead; then he must return a spade from his 9-7 into your A-8 — a neat trump endplay to make six spades.

Now let’s break it. How can West defeat six spades? He may choose any opening lead. Give it your best shot before reading further.

Only one lead will beat six spades. Sound the trumpets! West must lead the spade king. This is the lead I made in the 1986 World Championships when I defeated 28 consecutive slams single-handedly, blindfolded, with both hands tied behind my back, legcuffed to a chair.

With the spade-king lead, declarer can draw all of West’s trumps; but that only comes to 11 tricks, and there is no way to develop a successful squeeze or endplay. Note that declarer cannot gain by ruffing a diamond in dummy, as the ruff must be made with a high trump — hence, it merely exchanges one trick for another.

Declarer can succeed after any other lead. A low spade allows declarer to win in dummy and ruff out his two diamond losers, eventually giving West one trump trick. A diamond or heart lead is effectively the same as a club.

Don’t look for any morals or principles here. This deal proves only one thing: I am the greatest opening leader in the history of the game. Seriously, of course, it is a fluke and proves nothing.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek