Bridge: Why it always pays to think before you play

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HOLDING what appeared to be a completely worthless hand, East resigned himself to losing a large rubber.

With little interest in the proceedings, he committed the fatal error of discarding something that conceivably could, and indeed would, have been useful.

North-South game: dealer South


S. J 8 3 2

H. Q 10 7

D. 6 4 3

C. A 3 2


S. 6 5 4

H. J 8 5

D. K J 10

C. Q J 10 5


S. 9

H. 9 6 4 3 2

D. 9 8 7 5

C. 9 7 6


S. A K Q 10 7

H. A K

D. A Q 2

C. K 8 4

South opened with a conventional Two Clubs, and showed his spades over North's negative reply of Two Diamonds. When his spades were supported, he suggested no-trumps, but North now made a forward move with Four Clubs. That was enough for South and so he jumped to Six Spades.

West led the queen of clubs against the spade slam, and declarer won in hand. He started with two top trumps, on which East discarded a heart. East then played off the ace and king of hearts before crossing to dummy with the jack of spades, and drawing the last trump.

By this time, it should have been only too clear to East that neither of his remaining hearts could possibly feature in the play, but instead he parted with a club.

You can see the sequel. Declarer, who had planned to fall back on the diamond finesse for his 12th trick, brightened up.

He discarded his two of diamonds on dummy's top heart, and followed with the ace and another club to leave West on lead, with the choice of conceding a ruff and discard, or leading into South's diamonds.

If East had retained his clubs, West would have been able to unblock with one of his remaining honours under the ace, and leave East to win the third round with his nine. Then a diamond lead finishes declarer's chances when the finesse fails.