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To Fight Forcing Defense, Join It

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is not a testimony to good bidding but illustrates a common pitfall. The aversion toward minor-suit contracts often drives a partnership into a shaky major-suit contract.

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


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

Lead: D 4
S K 9 7 6 2
H A Q 4
C K Q 9 5 4

After East’s one-diamond opening, South overcalled in spades, North responded one notrump, and South introduced his club suit — all indisputable. North now opted to give a false preference to spades, hoping that his doubleton ace would provide adequate trump support. South then compounded the transgression by jumping to game. North’s decision was reasonable, but South stepped out of line with such a weak spade suit.

What is the best contract? If you answered six clubs, your analysis is impeccable. Nonetheless, it is difficult to bid to a slam after an opponent opens the bidding; even an expert pair is likely to miss this one. But that’s water under the bridge (table); you have to play four spades.

West led the diamond four; low, 10, ruff. A club was led to the 10 and ace, then the inevitable diamond return was ruffed. Now with only three spades, declarer was on the verge of losing control. If he cashed two high trumps and led clubs, he would fail — West would ruff and return another diamond, forcing South to ruff with his last trump, while East still held a trump and two good diamonds.

Declarer considered other possibilities, such as ducking a trump or leading clubs immediately; but these also appeared futile. Finally, he hit on a brainstorm: Since the opponents were intent on making him ruff, he would play along. If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em! He led a club to dummy’s jack; diamond ruff; three rounds of hearts ending in dummy; and one more diamond ruff. Declarer still had to win his spade king and dummy’s ace — and that came to 10 tricks.

The last word: East could defeat the contract by ducking the first club lead, which emphasizes how shaky these contracts are.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek