By Ken Masson


Everyone knows that to make a contract of 3 No Trump you need to take 9 tricks. Nobody ever said they have to be the first 9!

Another truism in bridge is that more mistakes are made at trick one than at any other point in the play of the hand. A little more care in planning the play in the illustrated deal after seeing the dummy could have saved declarer from an unnecessary failure

In this deal, played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club, South opened a perfectly normal 1 Diamond. West took advantage of the vulnerability to make an aggressive weak jump overcall of 2 Spades. North was full value for his 3 Heart bid and East passed. South, with a double Spade stopper closed the bidding with the reasonable call of 3 No Trump and West led the Jack of Spades, the recommended lead from this holding.

Declarer won the opening lead in hand with the Spade Queen, laid down the Heart King followed by the Heart 5. When West followed low to the second Heart, South called for the Jack, hoping the Queen was with West. Alas for declarer, East won the trick and promptly switched to his remaining Spade, trapping South’s King and allowing West to cash 5 tricks in the suit. On the run of the Spades, East signalled that he liked Clubs and when West switched to a Club the defence was able to come to a total of 7 tricks, defeating the contract by 3 tricks.

In the post mortem, South saw that the contract could have been made! The weak jump overcall by West was in fact the clue that South needed for it showed a probable six card suit and between 6 and 10 points. Therefore, East was likely to hold 2 Spades and at least some of the defence’s high cards. It was imperative to keep East off the lead as long as he had one Spade left. The way to do that was to duck the opening lead.

Note the deadly affect of this simple measure. If West continued Spades, South could win and take the Heart finesse with assurance that East would not be able to return a Spade to his partner if he won that trick. The only possible way that East could get to West’s hand was if the latter held the Club Ace, unlikely on the bidding and in which case the contract would have been hopeless from the start.

Also noteworthy on this deal is the fact that 4 Hearts could not make with accurate defence. East-West were always entitled to one spade, one heart and two clubs to put the major suit game down. 3 No Trump was indeed the best contract and all that the declarer had to do was duck the opening lead to make it.

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