The Best of STAC Week, Fall 2009
On today's deal, declarer capitalized upon a favorable opening lead to fulfill his contract in spectacular fashion.
Opening Lead: 9
West was up to his usual antics — that is, of making highly unorthodox
preempts. Although I am a big fan of enterprising
I consider west's call ludicrous under the circumstances. Being perfectly capable
of scoring well at this club by dint of competent play, he elected to make a total
crap-shoot of the board, and at unfavorable vulnerability to boot. I have
watched similar tactics go sour time after time over the years.
Of course, the mastermind's partner, who still hasn't learned any better, envisioned seven diamond winners plus the ace of hearts and whatever ninth trick would be immediately handed him on the opening lead; so he happily bid the notrump game.
An equally naive South, who also could count and who was fearful of handing east the
game-going trick, opted to avoid the issue by taking what he thought might be a
profitable sacrifice. Fully expecting to be doubled, he had no good reason to run
to his weaker suit after east's red card appeared.
The sight of dummy's diamond holding was met with mixed emotions. It being clear
3NT would have failed badly, south was regretting having taken any
action; conversely, east was happy to have gotten off the hook. On the other hand,
the 4-card trump support was a lucky catch for declarer, and the contract
actually had some chance of success.
East grabbed the ace of hearts and returned the queen to south's king.
A finesse in diamonds enabled declarer to discard his spade loser on the diamond
ace. A club was led, east contributing the
six-spot. Declarer briefly
considered putting in the seven; but if that were to lose to any singleton other than
the king, the contract would fail automatically, because dummy lacked an entry for a
further trump finesse.
Besides, declarer had a plan; in fact, he already was savoring the prospect
+510 on his scorecard. He finessed the club jack, west
discarding a diamond. Now came a play that was essential to success of the
contract: south cashed the ace of spades! Exiting with a heart to east's
jack, he ruffed the spade return to this position:
South now followed up with part two of his key maneuver: he played off his eight of hearts, discarding dummy's last spade, and east was stymied. When that worthy paused to deliberate his options, declarer graciously placed his remaining cards upon the table, conceding just one more trick.
East was left with the unhappy choice of handing declarer a dummy entry via a spade ruff, or finessing his own trump holding. Declarer had already decided to earn his "style points" in the case of a spade return. Instead of discarding, he would trump in hand with the seven and overruff with dummy's eights of clubs. Then he could draw trumps and finally cash the deuce of hearts that he had so carefully preserved for just such an eventuality.
Alternatively, east might decline to ruff the fourth round of hearts.
In that case, declarer could play off the last heart and either discard dummy's
diamond deuce or ruff low (but not with the
eight-spot), leaving RHO
similarly indisposed. Of course, south was ready for the more elegant ending
here as well. Instead of leading the last heart at all, he would simply
advance the club seven!
This was as pretty an end-position as has been seen in this club for quite some time. Would you have thought to play off that ace of spades?
Note: an opening lead of either a spade or a diamond would have defeated the contract. Being an entry short, declarer would have been compelled to lead a heart from dummy instead of taking a trump finesse. The magical ending would not have materialized, and declarer eventually would have lost two hearts and two trump tricks.