The Weekly Vista

Contract Bridge

Careful: Danger Ahead

- By Steve Becker

Assume you’re declarer in four hearts and West leads the king of spades. How would you play the hand? Take your time — the play is not as simple as it may seem.

To begin with, you should duck the king of spades. If you take the king with the ace and East is a first-rate defender, he will signal with the jack to show his J-10 combinatio­n. This guarantees him an eventual entry in spades that will allow him to make the killing club return that defeats the contract.

But even if you duck the king of spades, you still have to play carefully to get home safely. Let’s say that after you duck the king, West leads another spade to dummy’s ace. In that case, you draw trump with the queen and king, then lead a diamond from dummy and, after East follows low, you finesse the nine!

This extraordin­ary play ensures the contract. West wins with the queen but is helpless. If he returns a spade, you ruff in dummy and finish with 11 tricks; if West cashes the ace of clubs instead, you finish with 10 tricks.

Note that East cannot stop you from making the contract by playing the ten on your diamond lead from dummy. In that case, you would win with the king, return to dummy with a trump, lead another diamond and finesse the nine to finish with 11 tricks.

The operative principle throughout is to shape the play so as to prevent East from ever gaining the lead. That’s why it’s correct to duck the opening spade lead and why you later take the deep diamond finesse. Failure to make either of these plays would cost you the contract, assuming proper defense.

(c)2023 King Features Syndicate Inc.

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