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Subterfuge

This deal started an argument in a recent Swiss team event. South reached a normal 4 H contract that was destined to fail with the singleton diamond lead; but destiny is not always a fixed path. Declarer made a valiant attempt to control his fate, and it worked.

4 H by South

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

West

Pass
Pass
North

1 S
4 H
East
1 D
2 D
All Pass
South
1 H
3 H

With East bidding diamonds twice, West’s lead was an obvious singleton. South could see he was doomed to lose the first five tricks, so he tried some subterfuge. Under the D A he dropped the king! Now put yourself in East’s position. Wouldn’t you think declarer was out of diamonds? Of course you would — partner’s lead would be normal from 10-5-2 — so East led the C Q and continued clubs, South ruffing the third round.

Having pitched a trick to confuse East, declarer was still not home. There was no way to establish the spade suit for lack of entries, so declarer just ran his trumps (ace first). North’s last four cards were S A-K-9 C 10, and South’s were S 2 H 7 D 10-5. On the last heart the opponents were caught in a double squeeze. West had to keep the C J, so he let go his spade stopper; the C 10 was thrown from dummy, then East was squeezed in spades and diamonds.

The argument began. West contended that he played the two on the first club lead, yet East ignored it and continued clubs. East rebutted that he thought the C 2 was count, showing three clubs, so he was just cashing out to set the contract. Both points have merit, and there doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut solution. Maybe South just earned this one.

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek