Neither vulnerable. South deals.


xQ J 10 9 4

u5 3

vQ 7 5

w9 4 2


x6 5 x8 7 3

uA Q 8 6 4 u10 7 2

v10 9 vA J 6 2

wJ 8 6 3 wQ 10 5


xA K 2

uK J 9

vK 8 4 3

wA K 7

The bidding:


2NT Pass 3u Pass

3x Pass 3NT Pass

Pass Pass

Opening lead: Six of u

Some contracts cannot be guaranteed if the lie of the cards is unfriendly. But once in a while a touch of larceny can help land a game that was doomed to failure by the distribution. Was South’s play simply too clever, or was someone to blame for the debacle. If so, who?

North’s three hearts was a transfer to spades, and North’s rebid showed a balanced hand with five spades and the strength to contract for game. South decided that, with his flat hand, three notrump might not be a better contract than four spades.

West led the six of hearts to East’s ten and declarer’s knave. South could count eight tricks — five spades, one heart and two clubs. If the ace of diamonds was with West, the contract was safe. But what if East held the ace and won the first diamond trick to return a heart? Some chicanery was called for. At trick two declarer led the king of spades, West following with the five, dummy the two and East the three. The next trick consisted of the ace, six, nine and seven of spades. Now South led the king of diamonds from hand.

Afraid that declarer was trying to force an entry to run spades, East held up and declarer ran nine tricks instead of going down one. Was anyone to blame, or did cunning declarer play earn its just reward?

Certainly declarer played the hand to best advantage, but he should not have been allowed to get away with it, and West is to blame! On the king of spades and ace of spades, instead of following up the line, West should have echoed by first playing the six, then the five, to show an even number of cards in the suit. That would make it obvious to East that declarer had started with three spades and could run the suit. The play of the king of diamonds was, therefore, a ruse to steal a trick. East should win the ace and return a heart — down one.

2013 Tribune Media Services

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