Bridge

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DECLARER MADE a tiny error on this deal - which was imperceptible at the time, and became apparent only several tricks later.

South opened One Club, North responded One Diamond, and South then rebid One Heart.

With both partners stretching slightly for the vulnerable game, North advanced to Three Diamonds and South ended the auction with a bid of Three No-trumps.

Declarer received the favourable lead of the king of spades and won with his ace. He cashed the king of diamonds and followed with a low heart, trying the ten from dummy when West played low. East took his king and returned a spade, which was ducked to dummy's ten.

The ace of diamonds revealed the 5-1 break and declarer threw a club from hand. Next he cleared the spades and, in with his queen, West made the deceptively simple but highly effective play of cashing his ace of hearts.

Suddenly South realised that he had a problem. If he kept the queen of hearts on the table, West would cash the ace of clubs and exit with a heart, locking the lead in dummy and allowing East to win the setting trick with his ten of diamonds. If, instead, declarer were to unblock with the queen of hearts under the ace, West would exit with a heart immediately and, cut off from his winning diamonds, declarer could be end-played in clubs to concede two more tricks.

Did you spot South's slip? He should have led a heart to the queen, rather than the ten, at trick 3.

The vital difference would be that, depending on whether West cashed the ace of clubs or not, his subsequent heart lead could be won in the appropriate hand and North-South's optimistic bidding would then be justified.

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