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Clever Play Overcomes Blocked Suit

  by Richard Pavlicek

A blocked suit is an occasional problem for declarer, especially at a notrump contract. This occurs when the spot cards in the shorter hand are higher than the spot cards in the longer hand (witness the diamond suit). Declarer overcame this difficulty on today’s deal with a clever play.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S 3
H A 9 7 2
D J 10 9 8
C Q 8 6 5

1 S
2 S

3 D

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

Lead: S J
S A Q 5
H 4 3
D A K 7 5 4 3
C J 2

The bidding was first-rate. After West’s one-spade overcall, North made a negative double to show four cards in the unbid major suit. South rebid his diamond suit, West contested with two spades, and North raised to three diamonds. South judged well to bid three notrump — the diamond suit figured to run, and the expected spade lead would provide eight tricks, so all partner needed was one other trick to make game.

West led the spade jack to South’s queen and, as predicted, there were nine easy tricks… well, almost. The diamond suit contained a hitch. Declarer cashed the diamond king — perhaps the queen was singleton, then the suit would run smoothly — but no luck this time. If the diamond ace is now cashed, declarer will lose his two long diamonds because the suit is blocked and South has no outside entry. What to do?

One possibility is to concede a diamond, that is, let East win a trick with his queen; then the rest of the diamonds can be run. No, that would net just five diamond tricks, and declarer needs all six to make his contract. What about cashing the ace of spades and throwing a diamond? That would be fine if dummy had only one blocking card, but there are two cards to get rid of. Keep trying; we’re getting close.

Aha! Lead the spade five and discard a diamond. The opponents can do no harm since declarer has a stopper in every suit. If a spade is returned, throw another diamond as you win the ace; then cash the diamond ace and run the rest of the suit. If West instead shifts to a heart, simply win the ace, play a diamond to your ace, and discard dummy’s last diamond on the spade ace.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek