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Can’t Get There!

 by Richard Pavlicek

You’ve heard the story of the lost motorist who pulls into a gas station and asks the attendant how to get to Route 35. The thoughtful reply: “Hmm… You can’t get there from here.” This deal has a similar theme.

South dealsS 6 3 2WestNorthEastSouth
Both vulH 8 6 52 C
D K Q 7 5 2Pass2 DPass2 NT
C 7 2Pass3 NTPassPass
S Q J 5TableS 10 9 8 4Pass
H J 10 9 7H 4 2
D 8 3D A 10 9 4
C Q 10 9 3C J 8 5
S A K 7
H A K Q 3
D J 6
3 NT SouthC A K 6 4

West led the H J, taken by the queen. Declarer had seven top tricks and, unless hearts were 3-3, he needed two diamonds. The D J was led and of course it held; then another diamond went to the queen, ace. The D K now was like a star in the midnight sky — a beautiful sight but no way to reach it. Dummy was dead.

Was declarer a victim of fate? Or could he have done something? The problem should have been anticipated from the start. Declarer cannot get to dummy by himself (the gas-station attendant was right), but he might force an opponent to put him there. Before leading diamonds he must do some elimination work.

After winning the first heart, duck a club. Assume the opponents return a heart; win and duck a spade. Win any return and lead the D J which holds. Next cash all your remaining winners before leading a diamond to the queen and ace. East can cash his long spade, but he must give dummy the D K.

But wait! Perfect defense can prevail. When declarer ducks a club, the defenders must duck a diamond; then when a spade is given up, East can cash the D A to avert the endplay. This is difficult defense but not unrealistic in view of dummy.

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© 1997 Richard Pavlicek