The Herald (South Africa) - - Leisure - B Jay & Steve Becker

Test your play

1. You are de­clarer with the West hand at Three Notrump. North leads the four of spades, and you win South's ten with the king. How would you play the hand? 1. The ini­tial ques­tion is whether to tackle clubs or di­a­monds, but it shouldn't take long to recog­nise the fu­til­ity of try­ing to es­tab­lish clubs. If, say, you led a club at trick two, a spade would come back, and when you led an­other club, the de­fend­ers would cash enough spades to set you. You there­fore turn your at­ten­tion to di­a­monds, where you have to de­cide the best way to tackle the suit. Oddly enough, the cor­rect ap­proach is not to lead a heart to dummy first, which would force you to cash the re­main­ing top hearts pre­ma­turely be­fore try­ing a di­a­mond fi­nesse. In­stead, you should lead a low di­a­mond from your hand at trick two, post­pon­ing the di­a­mond fi­nesse un­til the se­cond round of the suit. Af­ter win­ning the spade re­turn at trick three, you cash the A-K-Q of hearts and then take the di­a­mond fi­nesse. If South started with two or three di­a­monds in­clud­ing the king – which is es­sen­tially your only chance – you are home. 2. It is im­pos­si­ble to go down un­less you lose a spade trick (be­cause South has the king) and a trump trick (be­cause one op­po­nent has all three miss­ing trumps). The prob­lem is to make the slam even if both of these con­di­tions ex­ist. Ruff the di­a­mond ace and lead a low heart to the king. If both de­fend­ers fol­low, your trou­bles are over, as you can't lose more than a spade. Now let's as­sume one de­fender shows out on the first trump lead. If it's South, you can pick up North's queen with a fi­nesse. If in­stead North shows out, you will even­tu­ally lose a trump trick, but you will still make the con­tract by play­ing the king of di­a­monds and ace of hearts fol­lowed by four rounds of clubs. If South ruffs a club at any point, he will be forced to make a los­ing re­turn, while if he does not ruff, you next throw him on lead with a trump to ac­com­plish the same re­sult. Note that if you play the heart ace rather than the king at trick two, the con­tract fails if South has the king of spades and no hearts.

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