The Punxsutawney Spirit

Alder's NEA Bridge: Most declarers love to elope

- By Phillip Alder

If an opponent holds the last outstandin­g trump and it is a winner, usually it is right not to lead the suit. Instead, it may be best to try to score your remaining trumps with ruffs.

Against four spades, West led the heart jack: queen, ace, two. Back came the heart six: seven, eight, king.

South seemed to have at least 10 certain tricks: six spades, one heart, two diamonds and one club. However, he had been well trained in his formative years. He always hunted for potential snags. Here, only a 4-0 spade break, which will happen almost 10 percent of the time, would present difficulti­es. Just in case, declarer made the farsighted and necessary play at trick three of ruffing dummy's heart four.

Next, South cashed the spade ace, getting the bad news. Undeterred, declarer led a low club to dummy's queen, East winning with the ace and returning the spade jack. (If East ducks, dummy's last heart is led.) South won, played a club to the king, ruffed a club in his hand, cashed his remaining top trump and banked the diamond ace. Finally, he played a diamond to the king and, at trick 12, led dummy's last heart.

What could East do? If he ruffed, declarer would have sluffed his diamond loser. If East discarded, South would have ruffed, leaving West's good diamond jack and East's trump 10 to fall together on the last trick. This technique of scoring low trumps by ruffing when an opponent has a winning trump is called elopement. The coup en passant that South used to score his last trump in this deal is the simplest form of elopement.

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