Sunday Times - - Puzzles -

Magic act

Open­ing lead — nine of clubs.

Ev­ery­one gets to a bad con­tract from time to time, even with good bid­ding, but when this hap­pens, de­clarer should still make his best ef­fort to try to get home safely.

South reached four hearts on the bid­ding shown, and West led a club. East took the ace and shifted to a spade. West cashed the Q-A and led a third spade, ruffed by South.

Think­ing that his best chance was to find the Q-J of hearts dou­ble­ton, de­clarer cashed the A-K of trumps. West later scored the jack of hearts, and South went down one.

South could have made the con­tract, how­ever. Though it might seem that de­clarer can­not avoid los­ing a trump trick if he plays cor­rectly, he will lose only three tricks.

Af­ter ruff­ing the spade at trick four, he trumps a club in dummy and cashes the Q-K-A of di­a­monds. He then ruffs the nine of di­a­monds, pro­duc­ing this po­si­tion:

De­clarer now leads the king of clubs. West’s play at this point does not mat­ter, but let’s as­sume he dis­cards a spade, in which case dummy does also. South then leads the jack of clubs.

If West trumps low, South has an easy time mak­ing the rest of the tricks. If West trumps with the jack in­stead, he might cause de­clarer some worry, but the re­sult comes out the same. South over­ruffs with dummy’s ace and leads the ten of hearts to trap East’s queen.

This method of play has a much bet­ter chance of avoid­ing a trump loser than play­ing for the Q-J to fall. Of course, it still re­quires a fair amount of luck to suc­ceed, but that’s what you need plenty of when you get to a bad con­tract.

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