Contract: 2S by south. West leads H9.
Play so far: East plays the five and you win with the jack. Before you read on, plan the play.
Analysis: The defence is threatening to ruff a heart. Let us say you win and play trumps. West wins with the SK, puts his partner in with the HA, and obtains a ruff. He exits in a diamond and later scores two club tricks as he has A-Q over your king. Is there anything you can do? As you cannot prevent the heart ruff, you should examine whether you can avoid losing two club tricks. This can be achieved only by end-playing west. The distribution of the defender's hands should be such that they are rendered helpless.
Solution: Therefore, remove west's exit card by cashing the diamonds before tackling trumps. West wins with the king, puts partner in with the HA and collects his ruff. All of a sudden west finds himself end-played. The full deal is:
Discussion: If you do not cash the three diamond tricks, west has an easy exit in a diamond after he gets the heart ruff. The idea of the play is to remove the exit cards from the west hand. The play is akin to a dentist extracting a patient's tooth. Terence Reese, the great bridge writer, called it ‘The Dentist Coup'. What an apt name for a wonderful coup!
What if west has three trumps to an honour? He has to be careful to win the first trump lead, put his partner in with HA, collect the ruff, and exit in the third trump to avoid being end-played. If west has S A-K-x and three or four diamonds, he cannot avoid being end-played.
Isn't it dangerous to play three rounds of diamonds? A 4-3 division occurs about 62 per cent of the time. So it is not as risky as you might think.
The play is not easy to find at the table. Nor is it obvious. Tell me honestly, did it occur to you?