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FACED with an apparently impossible contract, it often pays to play off winners and let the defenders worry about discards; they may be faced with real or (often just as good) imaginary problems. The idea would certainly have worked on this deal.

For South to open One Spade and hear a response of Two Hearts would necessitate rebidding the anaemic spades (2NT on the second round would apparently have suggested a stronger hand). Muddling a small spade in among his hearts - well, that was his alibi - he opened 1NT; North raised directly to game. As you can see, Four Spades would have been a far sounder contract.

West led +7 against 3NT, dummy played low and, after winning with his ace, East returned +3 to dummy's king while West followed with the six. All the indications were that the diamonds had been divided 5-3 and, with only eight tricks on top, it looked as if the defenders could hardly fail to come to their five winners. In an attempt to steal a trick, declarer led [10 from dummy (in the hope that East, with the ace, would play low) but West turned up with [A and cashed his three diamond tricks.

What if South had tried running off his five spade tricks immediately? West can throw a heart and a club without pain, but what can he let go on the fifth? A heart discard gives South three tricks in the suit; if instead he parts with a winning diamond, declarer can safely establish a trick in clubs.

LOVE ALL: dealer South


] A K J

_ K 10 8

+ K 4

[ 10 9 8 7 4

West East

] 10 6 ] 9 8 7

_ Q J 9 4 _ 6 5 3 2

+ Q 9 8 7 6 + A 3 2

[ A 5 [ 6 3 2


] Q 5 4 3 2

_ A 7

+ J 10 5

[ K Q J