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Eliminate Exit To Nullify Ruff

  by Richard Pavlicek

The problem of combating preemptive opening bids has never been solved — and never will be with complete accuracy. There just aren’t enough actions available to describe the many different hands one might hold. Good players are aware of this deficiency, and usually perform well by making an intelligent guess.

North faced such a predicament on today’s deal when West opened three spades. With 14 points he could not expect to make a contract at the four level; nor could he expect to defeat three spades. But he realized that his partner might have the same problem if he passed. Therefore, he took a chance and doubled — essentially for takeout — and South bid four hearts. Was North lucky to catch South with such a suitable hand? Perhaps; but let’s call it a good guess.

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

Lead: D 2
S K 4
H 10 9 7 6 5
D A 9 8 4
C K 3

West attacked straightaway by leading his singleton diamond, won by dummy’s queen as East correctly played low. Declarer was aware of the imminent diamond ruff, and considered his prospects. If East held the heart ace (likely) and West held at least two hearts, the ruff was unavoidable. But the ruff itself would not defeat the contract; the opponents also must win two spade tricks. Perhaps he should risk the club finesse to discard a spade. No, the bidding makes that a long shot. Finally, he saw an extra chance. Do you?

Declarer considered what West would lead after he got his ruff. Surely, not a spade as that would establish South’s king; he probably will lead a club, and therein lies the solution. West’s club cards must be removed before he gets the ruff.

Declarer immediately led a club to the king, back to the ace, then the club jack; queen, ruffed with the nine (just in case). A heart was led to the king and ace, then East returned a diamond for West to ruff. But West was endplayed; he had to give South a spade trick with the king.

Note that East could have led a spade after winning the heart ace; but then West would not get his diamond ruff. It’s a case of heads, you win; tails, he loses.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek