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South seemed to have made a good start in his contract of Three Spades on this deal but, in the closing stages, he found that he had earlier overlooked a tiny precaution that would have paid off.

South opened One Spade, West doubled, and North raised to Two Spades. Obsessed with the idea that his partner must hold the other major, East joined in with Three Hearts. This would have suited North, but South got in first with a bid of Three Spades. Snarling under his breath, North passed.

West led the ace of hearts and switched to the queen of diamonds at trick 2. Aware that he had done the wrong thing in the bidding, South tried to make amends. It seemed a good time for a safety play. He won the diamond in dummy and led the six of spades to his ace. Bingo! The king fell, marking East with the remaining ]J94. So declarer continued with a low spade to the ten and jack.

Rather than cash his diamond trick immediately, East played back his singleton club. Declarer won on the table and ran the eight of trumps successfully but, when he tried to come to hand with another club in order to draw the last trump, East ruffed and this was enough to defeat the contract.

What was it that South missed? Instead of leading the six of spades to the ace, he should have chosen the eight! The play goes as before but, when the third round of spades is led from dummy (the six), South can over-take with his seven and draw the last trump.