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Wrong Suit First

This deal occurred in an IMP team match, and the auction was the same at both tables. South’s 2 NT response without a spade stopper wouldn’t be seen in any textbook, but with 4-3-3-3 shape it’s the practical bid. It actually reaped a reward when West was dealt a normal club lead — a suit he would not have led if South bid clubs — giving declarer an eighth trick.

3 NT by South

N-S Vul
S J 9 7 4
H K J 10
D A Q 8 3
C Q 5
S A 10
H 9 6 3
D 9 7 2
C J 9 6 4 3
TableS K Q 8 2
H 8 7 5 2
D K J 5
C 8 2
Lead: C 4S 6 5 3
H A Q 4
D 10 6 4
C A K 10 7

West

Pass
North
1 D
3 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 NT

After winning the C 10, declarer at one table led a diamond to North’s eight. This was the correct way to play diamonds, but it didn’t help. East won the D J and returned a club, won by the queen. Declarer crossed to the H Q and led a second diamond to the queen, king. East now reasoned that the only hope was to find West with the S A, so he led a low spade and the defense cashed out for down one. Unlucky. Or was it?

Not really. Declarer deserved his ill fate because he attacked the wrong suit. There was a legitimate chance to establish a spade trick, and with every other suit well protected he should try that first. The diamond finesse can wait. Leading a weak suit early also has the advantage of breaking up the enemy communication, which leads to more opportunities in the endgame.

Let’s do it right. At trick two lead a spade; 10, jack, queen; then East returns a club to the queen. Now lead a second spade, won by the ace. West does best to shift to a diamond, which you duck to the jack; then East exits safely with a heart.

The contract is now makable, though declarer must guess correctly to do so. I’ll let you work it out. It might help to lay out a deck of cards.

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© 1999 Richard Pavlicek