Weekend Post (South Africa)


- Steve Becker

The opportunit­y to defeat a contract often knocks only once. If the defenders fail to open the door at that precise moment, the chance might be gone forever.

Consider this deal where a normal bidding sequence led North-South to an apparently hopeless four-spade contract. All East-West had to do was to collect their four high-card tricks at the start, and South would go down one.

But that proved to be easier said than done. East took the heart lead with the ace and shifted to the deuce of clubs. West won with the queen, continued with the ace and exited with a diamond to South’s ace. Declarer then drew trumps and scored the rest of the tricks, discarding his remaining club on one of dummy’s high diamonds.

It can be seen that if West had won the club return at trick two with the ace and returned the queen, East could have overtaken the queen with the king and given West a club ruff to set the contract.

This sequence of plays is not nearly as difficult as it might seem. West knows that if declarer has both the king of clubs and ace of diamonds, the contract cannot be beaten, so he must assume that East has one of these cards. East’s return of the club deuce at trick two suggests that he has an honour in the suit. Since the J-10 are in dummy, that honour card could only be the king. (If East did not have an honour card, he would have made a “top of nothing” return to denote lack of strength in the suit.)

Had West taken the ace at trick two and then returned the queen, East would have had no difficulty working out what to do. The ace followed by the queen would make no sense unless West had a doubleton, so overtaking the queen with the king and returning a club would have been clearly indicated.

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