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Crossruff Elopement

The key play was missed on this deal from a recent knockout team match. South became declarer in 4 H after the auction shown, and West led the S K. Put yourself in the South seat and ask yourself how you would proceed.

4 H by South

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

West

1 S
All Pass
North

2 H
East
Pass
2 S
South
1 H
4 H

The actual declarer won the S A and drew two rounds of trumps, revealing that West held the guarded queen. It was a routine matter to ruff two diamonds in dummy, but there was no way to avoid the loss of three clubs and a heart — down one. Would you have done better?

The key play is very subtle but would be normal technique for an expert. At trick two, declarer should ruff a spade in his hand. This alone accomplishes nothing, but it sets the stage for a successful crossruff and trump elopement.

After ruffing the spade, declarer cashes two trumps and two diamonds, then ruffs a diamond in dummy as West pitches a spade. Another spade is ruffed, and the last diamond is led, giving West an insoluble problem: He cannot afford to ruff (declarer would pitch a club from dummy); he cannot throw his last spade (else the S 6 would be good), so he pitches a club. Declarer then is able to ruff the last spade in his hand as West has to follow suit. That’s 10 tricks if you’re still with me.

There is a fine line in deciding whether to ruff in the longer trump hand. It is generally wrong if declarer plans to establish his side suit; but on crossruff deals, it is usually right. The chance to elope with an extra trick is greater if your trumps are evenly divided.

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek