The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS -

Con­sider this deal where South is in three notrump and you, West, lead the jack of spades, won by dummy’s king. De­clarer re­turns the eight of di­a­monds, los­ing to your part­ner’s king. East, a firm be­liever in al­ways re­turn­ing the suit his part­ner led, leads the eight of spades to dummy’s ace.

This does not prove to be an enor­mous suc­cess. De­clarer leads an­other di­a­mond from dummy, forc­ing out your ace, and even­tu­ally winds up mak­ing three notrump.

It is true that East’s spade re­turn at trick three would have worked out great if you had started with six spades to the J-10-9 in­stead of only five. But the fact re­mains that East’s spade re­turn was a dread­ful play.

East should have re­al­ized that shift­ing to the five of hearts at trick three was cer­tain to de­feat the con­tract. South clearly had no hope of mak­ing three notrump with­out es­tab­lish­ing dummy’s di­a­monds, and you were known to hold the ace. As soon as de­clarer led an­other di­a­mond, you would take your ace and re­turn a heart through the K-J to quickly set­tle South’s hash.

The deal demon­strates once again that blindly fol­low­ing a gen­eral rule is not al­ways the right thing to do. While the gen­eral prin­ci­ples of de­fen­sive play are highly re­li­able in most in­stances, that cer­tainly doesn’t mean one must fol­low a rule re­gard­less of the sit­u­a­tion. Ev­ery play must stand on its own mer­its.

Of course, it goes against the grain to de­lib­er­ately play away from the A-Q-9-5 into dummy’s K-J-10, but if the cir­cum­stances de­mand it – as in this case – you must swal­low hard and do it. It’s ba­si­cally a mat­ter of self-preser­va­tion.

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