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The Independent Culture
ANY CHESS player with pretensions is familiar with a wide variety of standard endings. But even some top-ranking bridge players lack comprehensive knowledge of standard suit combinations.

This deal from the last round of a big pairs tournament, with both pairs in close contention, was a case in point. South opened 21, North responded 41, and South rebid 1 No-trumps - suggesting a minimum opening. North raised directly to 6 No-trumps, trying for the maximum without further investigation, and, after the lead of !8, declarer felt his partner had done the right thing. With 11 top winners, all that was needed was an extra trick in the spade suit, and (with only 32 points between the two hands) by no means would all of the field be in a slam.

Having set the scene, how would you tackle the spades to maximise your chances of three tricks in the suit? There are a number of possibilities but declarer's choice of running 4J, losing to the queen, and later playing off the ace and king in an attempt to drop the ten, was not a triumph.

Yes, two finesses would succeed, or a low spade towards the jack, or even playing off both top spades, but by far the best technical line is to cash 4A and, if no honour falls, continue with the nine, allowing it to run if East plays low. If this loses to the ten and West plays low on the next spade lead from hand, the jack is led and run. This loses only if West has started with 410x and East with 4Qxxx but - beware! - a really crafty East, with 4Qxx, might play low on the second round in an unconcerned manner . . .

Game all; dealer South


4A K 9 8

!K 7

#A 6 3

2K Q 4 2

West East

410 7 3 2 4Q 6

!9 8 6 2 !Q J 5 4 3

#J 7 #Q 10 8 5 2

210 8 5 26


4J 5 4

!A 10

#K 9 4

2A J 9 7 3