The Weekly Vista

Contract Bridge

100% Efficiency

- by Steve Becker

This deal occurred in a high-level pair championsh­ip. At all five tables where the hand was played, the contract was three notrump, with South as declarer, and at each table South found the winning line of play to make the contract.

Despite the identical outcome at each table, it is safe to say that many declarers facing exactly the same situation would have gone down. Superficia­lly, there seems to be nothing to the play, but that’s exactly what makes it so easy to go wrong.

It appears to be normal to win the opening spade lead with the queen, play the queen of diamonds and finesse. But in the actual deal, this approach proves fatal after East takes the queen with the king and returns a spade. When the diamonds turn out to be divided 4-2 rather than 3-3, South can do no better than go down one.

But the correct method of play — adopted by all five expert declarers — makes the contract and, in fact, produces 10 tricks. Instead of leading the queen of diamonds at trick two, South should cross to dummy with a club and lead a low diamond toward the Q-2!

What can East do in that case? If he rises with the king, South scores four diamond tricks. If East plays low instead, declarer wins with the queen and leads a diamond to the ace, felling East’s king. South then continues with the jack and another diamond, and once again scores four diamond tricks.

Declarer should reason that if the opposing diamonds are divided 3-3, it makes no difference whether he starts the suit from his own hand or from dummy. But if the diamonds are 4-2, South does better in the long run by initiating the suit from dummy.

It is true that if either opponent has four diamonds to the king, declarer’s play does not matter — he goes down either way. But if West has four without the king, as in the actual deal, leading the first diamond from dummy is absolutely essential.

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