Sunday Times - - Puzzles -

Open­ing lead — jack of clubs.

It is not un­com­mon for de­clarer to be in a sit­u­a­tion where he can as­sure a con­tract by play­ing cor­rectly, but can jeop­ar­dise the con­tract by play­ing in­cor­rectly.

Take this deal where South wins the open­ing club lead with the king and, af­ter di­gest­ing the 5-0 split in the suit, re­turns the queen of di­a­monds. If West knows his way around a bridge ta­ble, he ducks and al­lows de­clarer to win the trick. (If West takes the queen with the ace, South can­not be stopped from even­tu­ally scor­ing two di­a­mond tricks and the con­tract.)

When the queen holds, South plays an­other di­a­mond, and West ducks again. De­clarer now has a tough de­ci­sion to make be­cause he does not know where the ace and jack are lo­cated. If he guesses wrong, he goes down.

Pre­sent­ing de­clarer with such guesses is part of the strat­egy of de­fence, and any de­fender who misses such op­por­tu­ni­ties is sell­ing him­self short.

This hav­ing been said, how­ever, the fact is that if de­clarer plays cor­rectly, he makes the con­tract re­gard­less of where the ace and jack of di­a­monds are sit­u­ated. All he has to do is to lead the four of di­a­monds to dummy’s eight at trick two. This guar­an­tees at least two di­a­mond tricks against any lie of the cards.

If the eight wins, a low di­a­mond to the queen pro­duces a sec­ond di­a­mond trick. If the eight loses to the jack, South later over­takes his queen with the king to as­sure two di­a­mond tricks.

All roads lead to Rome — pro­vided South has the pres­ence of mind to play the di­a­mond four to the eight at trick two. This elim­i­nates any chance of go­ing wrong later in the play.

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