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SOME false cards are practically obligatory. The trouble is that no one rings a bell when a defender should play one, and to stop and analyse the situation before contributing a card is nearly always a complete give-away.

South opened One No-trump and was raised to game by North. West led the queen of spades against Three No-trumps, East unblocked with the king and declarer won the third round of the suit with his ace.

There were only seven top tricks in sight and clearly the diamonds had to produce the extra two needed. Furthermore, the suit had to be played in such a way that West was kept out of the lead and this meant relying on East holding the king.

The obvious play of ace and another diamond would work if East held three of the suit including the king but would fail as the cards lie (East drops his king under the ace). Instead declarer crossed to dummy with a heart and led a low diamond. If East had gone up with his king, the defence would have been finished, but he played well when he followed with the eight. South's queen won and the next diamond lead found West playing the ten. At this point only the jack and the king were missing and declarer knew that East (the safe hand) would be compelled to overtake. So he played low from dummy and now had nine tricks.

Suppose that West had false-carded with the jack on the second round of diamonds? Then declarer would be left with a genuine choice between succeeding by playing low from dummy or hoping that East had started with the king, ten and eight, when it would be necessary to play dummy's ace to avoid leaving West on lead.