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Reaching an Unreachable Dummy

  by Richard Pavlicek

We’ve all heard the story of the lost motorist who pulls up to a rural gas station to ask the attendant how to get to Route 35. The thoughtful reply: “You can’t get there from here.” The same answer would fit today’s deal for declarer to reach dummy.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S 6 3 2
H 8 6 5
D K Q 7 5 2
C 7 2


2 D
3 NT

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

Lead: H J
S A K 7
H A K Q 3
D J 6
C A K 6 4

South’s two-club opening bid was artificial, showing at least 23 points (as played in conjunction with weak two-bids). North responded two diamonds (negative, 0-7 HCP), and South rebid two notrump to show a balanced hand. Traditionalists might object because South does not have a diamond stopper; but the modern approach (proven effective) is give priority to describing one’s hand pattern. In any case, North had the weakness well covered, and he raised to game.

West led the heart jack to South’s queen. Declarer had seven top tricks and, unless hearts divided three-three, he needed two diamond tricks to make his bid. The diamond jack was led and, of course, it held the trick. Another diamond was led to the queen and gobbled by the ace. The diamond king was now established as declarer’s ninth trick; but it was like a star in the midnight sky — a beautiful sight but no way to reach it. The dummy was dead.

Could declarer have done something about this? Or was he a victim of fate? Declarer should have anticipated the problem from the beginning. He cannot get to dummy from his own hand (the gas-station attendant was right), but he might force an opponent to put him there. Before leading diamonds, he should eliminate the other suits.

After winning the first heart, duck a club. Assume the opponents return a heart; win and duck a spade. Win any return and lead the diamond jack, which holds. Next cash all your remaining winners before leading a diamond to the queen and ace. East can cash a good spade, but he must give dummy the last trick.

Perfect defense can prevail. When declarer ducks a club, the defenders must lead a diamond; then when a spade is ducked, East must cash the diamond ace to avoid being thrown in. Nevertheless, I would not expect this to happen at the table.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek