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Misfit Troubles

Misfit deals are notorious for causing trouble, and this deal was no exception when it occurred in a recent IMP practice match. With 33 combined HCP, reaching a slam was inevitable; but the lack of an eight-card trump fit made the journey uneasy. South’s final bid of 6 NT was a sensible guess at the best contract.

6 NT by South

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

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 D
3 C
4 C
5 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
3 S
4 NT
6 NT

Declarer won the spade lead and immediately led a heart to unblock the suit. After a little thought, he next led a low club from dummy and East grabbed the jack. Everything would be fine if East routinely returned a spade, but East cleverly shifted to a diamond. Now declarer could not untangle his tricks (the club suit was blocked) and the contract had to fail.

Declarer was unlucky, but he should have done his “little thought” a trick earlier. There is a foolproof play to succeed against any lie of the cards: Lead the C 10 at trick two and let it ride. The need to unblock the hearts immediately is an illusion because the C 9 will provide an additional entry if the club finesse loses.

When East wins the C J there is no winning defense. If East returns a spade, South wins; heart to the king; club to the nine; cash South’s winners, then a diamond and dummy is good. If East instead returns a diamond, North wins; club to the nine; heart to the king; cash North’s winners, then a spade and South is high.

Curiously, an original heart or diamond lead would defeat the slam no matter how declarer played.

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek