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Equal Opportunity

  by Richard Pavlicek

I was West on this innocent looking deal from the Summer Nationals and watched our opponents do all the bidding. Two diamonds was a transfer to hearts, then 3 NT offered a choice of games, which South corrected to 4 H for fear of a diamond stopper in notrump. Almost any expert pair would bid the same.

Not wanting to guess which side suit to start, I led a trump. “When in doubt, lead trumps,” was my thinking, which experience has shown to be good advice on defense. (As declarer, however, I would advise just the opposite.) This turned out to be effective, as it prevented an easy diamond ruff for a 10th trick.

South dealsS Q 4WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH K J 10 9 71 NT
D A 7 4 3Pass2 DPass2 H
C 5 4Pass3 NTPass4 H
S A 10 6TableS J 9 8 5 3PassPassPass
H 6 4 3H 8 5
D K J 10 9D Q 8
C Q 10 6C J 9 7 3
S K 7 2
H A Q 2
D 6 5 2
4 H SouthC A K 8 2

Declarer won the H J in dummy and ducked a diamond. I led another trump, won by the ace; then declarer won the D A and gave up a diamond. His hopes were that, if diamonds were not 3-3, the hand with the long diamonds did not have the remaining trump — surely reasonable but not to be, as I was able to lead a third trump to leave declarer without recourse.

At the time, this seemed like an open-and-shut case; I found the best lead, and declarer was doomed. During the dinner break, I looked at it again and realized that declarer should have prevailed. After winning the H J, suppose declarer plays three rounds of clubs, ruffing in dummy (with the H 9, just in case) and leads the S Q. If I win this, declarer has entries to complete a dummy reversal, so I must duck.

Declarer next leads D A (optional) and a diamond; then the trump return is won with the ace to lead the last club. Ouch! What do I pitch? If a diamond, declarer can establish dummy’s fourth diamond (not needing the ruff); if a spade, declarer can lead a spade and duck it to my blank ace; and if I ruff, declarer has an easy time as I have no third trump to lead.

Winning tip: When your primary goal is to obtain an extra trick by ruffing, it is often beneficial to equalize your trump length. In this case, the early club ruff did not conflict with the basic plan to ruff dummy’s fourth diamond; it merely added another possibility (dummy reversal) requiring the defense to counter both; then the fourth club forced a discard, which was too much for West to handle.

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek