Experts agree that low-level contracts are the most difficult to play. The reason is that declarer has less control over his fate; he usually cannot plan the play more than several tricks ahead because of an exhaustive number of possibilities. On todays deal, from the North American Championships in Lancaster, Pa., declarer had to slug it out, trick by trick, to make his one-notrump bid.
West led a low club, and declarer made his first fine play: Jack! The purpose was either to gain an entry to dummy or to tempt East to cover, and the latter worked; queen, king. Notice that the club nine now ensures a second stopper.
Declarer could not get to dummy to finesse hearts or diamonds, so he led the heart queen. If this was captured by the king, declarer could win three heart tricks; but East wisely ducked. Declarer next led the spade four; low, 10, jack; East returned a club to Wests ace; and another club went to dummys nine as South discarded a diamond.
Finally in dummy, declarer led the diamond 10; low, queen, king; then West cashed his last club. Declarer was forced to discard from both hands, and he did so shrewdly a heart from dummy and the diamond eight from hand. By falsecarding in diamonds and holding on to his two low spades, declarer caused West to misread the position. It worked! West returned a diamond, and dummys seven won the trick.
It feels like it should be Miller time but not yet. Declarer had to discard two diamonds to fool West, so he was still short of his contract. He led a diamond to his blank ace as East threw a spade, reducing everyone to two spades and two hearts. Declarer exited with a spade, won by East, who returned a spade to West. At trick 12 West perforce led a heart, and declarer reasoned that East must have the king (else the defense was pitiful): nine, king, ace!
Break open the six-pack.
© 1989 Richard Pavlicek