Chennai Bridge Association conducts its annual City League in June every year. The 2013 league attracted fourteen teams. It was conducted on an ‘all play all’ format. Same deals were played in all the seven matches. Today’s deal is from the league, where declarers at a few tables with identical bidding went down in 3N. See if you can find the correct play.

Contract: 3N by south. West leads the D6. Plan the play.

How the play went: All declarers put up the DQ, east following with the DT to indicate a doubleton. When they played a club from dummy, east dashed with the ace and returned a diamond to defeat the contract by two tricks.

Analysis: West’s vulnerable 2D overcall against a strong bidding sequence, suggests he has a six-bagger. To arrive at nine tricks, you need to find west with the SQ. If you care to reconstruct west’s hand, you will definitely not give him the club ace, for his hand would be something like S Q-x-x H x-x D A-J-9-x-x-x C A-x. It’s a clear-cut 1D opener in any seat, any vulnerability, even without the hypothetical Q/J of hearts in his hand.

Now, the correct play becomes very obvious.

Correct play: Play a small diamond from both the hands at trick one! There is no way they can defeat you now.

Let us say, east plays another diamond and west clears the suit. You will work on clubs and later finesse the SJ to make the contract, with ease. The complete hands are:

What if east shifts to a heart at trick two? You may ask. No problem. Play low from hand and capture west's jack with dummy's ace and exit in DQ! West wins but cannot play a second heart without giving you an extra trick in the suit. You will establish clubs and finesse the SJ to make ten tricks.

Discussion: The point to realise in this deal was that west cannot have a fair six-card diamond suit and also the club ace and yet not open the hand. So, you have to give east the club ace. While it is normally correct to put up the queen when you have Q-x in dummy and K-x-x in your hand and LHO leads the suit, you have to make an exception here. By ducking the first diamond, you shut out west’s entry for his long diamonds.

So, next time when you declare a tricky contract, make sure you recall the bidding, analyse the opening lead, reconstruct the defenders’ hands, form a definite plan, before you play to the first trick.

George coffin, a famous writer, wrote about sixty years ago, a book with the title ‘Strategy at trick one’. Obviously, our declarers don’t seem to have read the book!

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