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Leading a Lady

The World Bridge Championship held in Paris last month showcased an exciting final match between the United States and Norway. In the first half Norway built up a huge lead (79 IMPs), and many thought it was all over but the shouting. Not! The U.S. mounted a great comeback to win at the wire. Congrats to Rose Meltzer, Kyle Larsen, Chip Martel, Lew Stansby, Alan Sontag and Peter Weichsel for elevating our flag in these times of national tribulation.

This deal caught my interest:

3 NT by South

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

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 C
2 C
3 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 D
3 NT

The North player for Norway opened the bidding (do Norwegian jacks count more than ours do?) and South eventually landed in 3 NT on the bidding shown. This contract seems hopeless with the lack of communication, but it came down to an ending that provides a good lesson in defensive technique. Would you have been alert to the occasion?

West led a heart to East’s ace, and a heart was returned to the queen. Lacking an outside entry, West shifted to a spade hoping to remove dummy’s entry before the clubs were established. This was ducked to the queen, and the spade return went to the blank ace. Declarer then crossed to the C A and cashed the H K (a good play) before exiting with a third spade.

East was now on lead, holding: D Q-8-3 C Q-8-3. Endplayed? Perhaps tired from the heat of battle, East returned a low diamond. This was ducked to dummy’s jack, and declarer claimed his contract. Alas, this was not a legitimate endplay. The winning defense is for East to lead the diamond queen — yes, “leading a lady” blocks the communication — and declarer must fail. Remember this option the next time you think you are endplayed.

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© 2001 Richard Pavlicek