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No Strings Attached

 by Richard Pavlicek

If you’re offered something with no strings attached, it’s usually a good deal — well, unless you’re buying a violin or a guitar. South made such an offer on this deal and, sure enough, East was the happy beneficiary.

South’s 3 NT bid was optimistic. After doubling 1 H and forcing partner to bid, South was fortunate to catch North with any points at all. (I think most experts would bid just 2 NT, leaving North the final say.) Nonetheless, it’s hard to take a dim view with 22 HCP.

East dealsS 10 4WestNorthEastSouth
None vulH 4 3 21 HDbl
D 7 6 3Pass2 CPass3 NT
C Q J 9 8 4PassPassPass
S 9 8 7 5 3TableS J 6
H J 5H K 10 9 8 6
D 8 5 4 2D A Q J
C 7 2C K 10 3
S A K Q 2
H A Q 7
D K 10 9
3 NT SouthC A 6 5

West led the H J and East overtook with the king (a good play in case West had a singleton) and South won the ace. The club suit offered the only real hope, so declarer cashed the C A and led a second club to the queen. East, of course, did not win the king but ducked (West’s count signal made this obvious).

There was no point in leading another club with no entry to dummy, so declarer next led a diamond to his king as East ducked. That made eight tricks, but the resources were depleted — down one.

Declarer’s mistake was his no-strings-attached offer in the club suit. Instead of cashing the C A, he should have led a low club to the queen immediately. East would still duck to shut out the club suit, but now declarer has a string to work with.

A diamond is led to the king as before, then declarer cashes his top spades. On the last spade winner East has an awkward discard; he can’t part with a diamond or a club, so he must pitch a heart. Declarer next cashes the H Q and exits with a heart. After cashing his red-suit winners, East is forced to lead a club from the K-10, giving declarer the last two tricks. One small string ends up delivering one big trick, and the contract.

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© 2001 Richard Pavlicek