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There is one player in Chennai who is absolutely brilliant in his analysis of bridge hands. Those who play in the local bridge circuit know him as Viswanathan. He passed out from the very first batch of IIT when it was formed way back in the early 1950s. He is a good friend of mine and he showed me today’s deal which came up in an IMP match at his table.

Declarer went down in the contract but Viswanathan was quick to point out how he could have made it.

Contract: 4S by south. West leads the D9, indicating a doubleton. East wins with the jack, cashes DK, and plays the DA. Plan the play.

Analysis: From the opening lead, you can easily infer that east should have a 5-3-3-2 distribution.

West can at best have the spade jack. With the third diamond promoting a trump trick for the defence, you seem to be headed for defeat as both the heart and the club finesse rate to lose. If east has two spades, the contract is in the bag. Have you spotted the play?

Correct play: Ruff the third diamond with the SA. West discards a club. Cross to HA, play the DQ to pitch the HJ from hand! Let us say west ruffs and exits in a club. Win with the ace, ruff a heart, cash SQ, enter dummy in SK, and ruff one more heart to bring down the king. Cross to CK and discard your club loser on the HQ. The complete hands are:

Discussion: If south ruffs the third heart with a small trump, west can over ruff, and switch to a club, attacking dummy’s entry and thereby defeating the contract. Often, the key to winning declarer play lies in reconstructing as well as assuming a precise distribution in the defenders’ hands.

In this particular hand, declarer had to hope east has exactly two spades, which would enable him to succeed in the contract.

You will agree it is only logical to play west for three spades, as he is short in diamonds.

Play out the deal with a deck of cards to appreciate the beauty of the suggested line of play.

If south leaves the double in, NS can skin the declarer alive by starting with a spade lead. You can’t fault him for not sitting for the double but pulling it out, for he went after the vulnerable game, which he felt should have an easy play.

E-mail: ls4@gmail.com

Keywords: bridge game