Article 7J69 Main

When in Doubt…

 by Richard Pavlicek

Mabel showed me this deal from one of her recent online games. As West, not wishing to guess which side suit to lead, she followed the expert philosophy: When in doubt, lead trumps.

The bidding illustrates one of my favorite conventions: one notrump forcing over a major. Accordingly, South was forced to bid a three-card club suit, since 2 H would show six hearts and 2 S would be a reverse showing greater strength. North then made a jump preference to invite game, and South accepted.

East dealsS 8 3WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH A 9 2Pass1 H
D J 10 5 2Pass1 NTPass2 C
C K Q 10 3Pass3 HPass4 H
S A Q 9 6TableS J 7 5PassPassPass
H J 10 8H Q 6
D K 7 6 4D Q 9 8 3
C 9 2C 8 7 6 5
S K 10 4 2
H K 7 5 4 3
4 H SouthC A J 4

Assuming a normal trump break, declarer can be sure of nine tricks: four hearts, one diamond and four clubs. The spade suit offered a reasonable chance for 10, either by winning the king or a ruff in dummy (or both), so declarer won the H A and led a spade to the king. Too bad. Mabel won the ace and accurately led a second trump to the queen and king.

Declarer next ran clubs (pitching a spade), but Mabel refused to ruff with her master trump. Eventually, a spade was led, and Mabel was able to win and draw dummy’s last trump to defeat the contract.

Despite the fine defense, declarer overlooked a direct route to 10 tricks. Instead of trying for a ruff in dummy, the same extra trick can be gained by three ruffs in hand. And the nice part is that it requires no luck in spades. Win the H K; cash the D A; H A; diamond ruff; C A; C K; diamond ruff; and finish the clubs. West must refuse to ruff as before (else it’s easy); then ruff the last diamond with your last trump to ensure the game.

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek