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Opportunity Missed To Ruin Slam

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred in the Open Swiss Teams last month at the Bonaventure tournament. The North-South pairs at both tables bid and made six notrump, resulting in no swing. Nonetheless, the deal is instructive because of a missed opportunity.

6 NT South
N-S Vul
S K Q J 10
H A J 9 2
D K 8 6 4

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

Lead: D J
S 5 4 3
D A 3
C K Q 8 7 6 5

The bidding is shown as it occurred at one table. North opened one diamond, South responded two clubs, and North rebid two spades (better than two hearts because of the stronger suit). South jumped to three notrump, and North raised to four notrump (not Blackwood) as an invitation to six notrump. South accepted on the basis of his club suit which he hoped would provide six tricks.

West led the diamond jack; South won the ace and led a spade to East’s ace. Declarer now had 12 tricks in the form of three spades, four hearts, two diamonds and three clubs. Note that the long club suit was not even necessary to make the slam.

That was easy. Indeed, way too easy, when in fact the slam can be defeated. Did you spot the killing defense?

Congratulations if you noticed a defensive holdup play. Declarer’s communication is constricted in hearts and clubs because of the blockage in each suit, and the defenders can exploit this. West’s opening lead was a great start, attacking the diamond entries; but East fell from grace. East must duck the first two spade leads; then upon winning the third spade, he must return a low diamond to knock out the king.

Declarer now is unable to separate his tricks. Try it! You will find it impossible to win 12 tricks, regardless of the order in which the winners are cashed. It would also not help if declarer cashed one or more clubs or hearts before giving up a spade.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek