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"It was a good contract!" South protested defensively after going down in Four Spades. "All I need is trumps 2-2, or I might drop a singleton honour, or 2A to be right." All very true, but declarer missed a way of improving his chances.

South opened 14 and North raised directly to game. West led #J and this caused declarer no grief. With the idea of finding out how many club losers he had and possibly, if there were only two, to permit himself a safety play in trumps, South crossed to a top heart and immediately led a club to his king.

This was not a success. West took his ace, cashed the jack, and in the fullness of time East came to a trump and a third club trick.

It certainly looks better for declarer not to commit himself so early. Suppose he starts by cashing the king of trumps and his other top diamond, then follows with the ace, king and another heart. The queen appears and South ruffs, establishing dummy's jack. Next he crosses to 4A, revealing the trump loser, and discards a club on !J.

Finally it is time to try the clubs. A low club lead will almost certainly find East putting in the 9 or 10 in an attempt to save his partner from an end-play but there is no rush for South to play the king. If the ten wins, there will be time enough to try the king on the next round, but - and this is the crucial point - as the cards lie, the suit is blocked for the defence. West has to overtake and can either cash his ace or concede a ruff and discard. Either way, declarer has his tenth trick.

And if West had shown up with the long trumps? Then with the red suits eliminated, he would have been put in with the third trump and most certainly end-played.

N-S game; dealer South


4A 10 6 4

!A K J 2

#7 3

28 7 3

West East

47 4Q J 3

!10 8 6 3 !Q 9 5

#J 10 9 8 5 3 #K 6 4

2A J 2Q 10 9 4


4K 9 8 5 2

!7 4

#A Q

2K 6 5 2