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Trump Handling

  by Richard Pavlicek

I was East on this deal which produced a spirited auction ending in 4 S. My partner’s jump to 3 H was weak and I considered bidding 5 H, more as a sacrifice than expecting to make, but I decided to sell out in the hopes of beating them.

North dealsS A K Q 6WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH J 81 C1 H1 S
D J3 H3 S4 H4 S
C Q 9 5 4 3 2PassPassPass
S 7TableS 5 4 3
H 10 7 5 2H A Q 9 6 4 3
D Q 10 9 4D K 7
C K 10 8 6C A J
S J 10 9 8 2
D A 8 6 5 3 2
4 S SouthC 7

West led a heart to my ace and I returned the H Q, which was ruffed. Declarer won the D A, ruffed a diamond (high) and led a club to my jack. I shifted to a trump and declarer just couldn’t get home. He won in hand and ruffed a diamond; next came a club ruff and another diamond ruff to set up his two long diamonds. Alas, he was unable to use them because he couldn’t draw my trumps; down one. (It may help to lay out a deck of cards to follow the play.)

Declarer missed a clever maneuver that would allow him to prevail. Instead of ruffing the second heart, he should discard a club. I would then have to lead a trump to stop a complete crossruff, and he can now succeed since his trumps have not been shortened. Win the trump in dummy; D A; diamond ruff (high); club ruff; diamond ruff (high); trump to hand; draw trumps and give West a diamond. Declarer still has a trump to gain the lead and win his last two diamonds.

The technique of postponing a ruff (discarding a sure loser instead) is often overlooked and rarely costs a trick. In most cases it doesn’t matter, but occasionally, as on this deal, it gives declarer a timing advantage that makes a difference.

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© 1999 Richard Pavlicek