Goren on Bridge
The success or failure of a contract can depend on a very small thing, sometimes so small that it is hard to even see it. Competition forced NorthSouth into a hopeless four-heart contract with four top losers. A hopeless contract may gain some hope after the opening lead, however, and who could fault West for leading a spade?
South won the opening spade lead with dummy’s ace and quickly cashed the king, discarding two clubs from his hand. The contract looked pretty good now, and declarer led the jack of hearts from dummy. East won this with the king and led his last spade. South ruffed but had no winning continuation. Another heart and he would lose complete control of the hand. He tried playing on diamonds, cashing the ace, king, and queen before ruffing a diamond in dummy with the eight.
East discarded a club and South had no winning option. East’s trump length, his ability to over-ruff dummy’s five of hearts, and his ability to force declarer in clubs gave him control of the hand and the contract failed by one trick.
What went wrong? The jack of hearts is what went wrong! Had declarer led the five of hearts at trick three instead of the jack, he could not have been defeated.
Whether East ducked or won with his ace to tap declarer, South could turn his attention to diamonds. He could cash three high diamonds and ruff a diamond with the eight of hearts in dummy. East could over-ruff but he couldn’t defeat the contract. Try it for yourself.
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Both vulnerable, South deals