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The deal below is from a rubber bridge game. It required a completely different technique from the declarer to succeed in the contract. As he had not come across the theme before, he failed to find the winning line of play at the table. See if you can spot it.

Contract: 4S by south. West leads the club king. Plan the play.

Bidding explanation: North's 1 NT showed 15-17 hcp and a balanced hand. East made a weak jump overcall with the intention of making it difficult for his opponents. South's hand presented no problem and he chose the eminently correct bid of 4S which ended the auction.

How the play went: ‘If ever there was a simple and straight-forward looking hand, this is it', thought the declarer and called for the ace. East ruffed and returned the diamond king. It was west's turn to ruff and he cashed the club queen, and exited in club jack. There was no way that the declarer could avoid a diamond loser and he went down. The complete hands are:

Did you realise that declarer blundered at trick one?

Correct play: All that the declarer has to do is to play low from dummy at trick one! Assume west continues with club queen. Refuse once again to part with the ace! Let us say west exits in club jack. Play low for the third time and ruff. Draw trumps, cash the club ace to discard a diamond loser from hand, and claim ten tricks.

Discussion: The point of the deal is that you should not allow your winner to be put to the enemy's sword, as Reese would say.

By playing this way, you lose two club tricks instead of one.... but you lose only one diamond trick instead of two. In short, you are trading your losers.

You should appreciate west's defence of ruffing his partner's diamond return. If he elects to discard instead, declarer prevails, for he can end-play east. He wins the diamond ace, removes trumps, eliminates the hearts, and finally exits in a diamond. East will be forced to give a ruff and discard after cashing his two tricks in diamonds.

Suppose east ruffs the club king when you play low to the first trick and gives west a diamond ruff. West is welcome to give one more club ruff to his partner... but that will be all, for they have exhausted their ruffs!

Have you ever ducked an ace thrice in a suit contract? That is bridge for you!

E-mail: ls4bridge@gmail.com

Keywords: bridge game