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The Independent Culture
LIKE many sayings, 'The five level is strictly for the opponents' has more than a grain of truth, especially if they are playing in a major suit. It will take them a lot of skill and judgement to gauge that they can make exactly 11 tricks - not 10, when they will be over the top, and not 12, when perhaps they should have bid the slam. This deal illustrates the point well.

South opened One Spade and North raised directly to Four Spades. East ventured Five Hearts and, under pressure, South contested with Five Spades. A sacrifice in Six Hearts was a possibility for West, but he (wisely) decided to pass.

The lead of the four of hearts went to East's ace and he found himself with only one safe exit card - his singleton trump. South won, drew a second round of trumps and followed with a finesse of the 10 of clubs, losing to East's jack. This left East in a difficult position. He reasoned that, as a club return would clearly give away a trick, his choice lay between leading a diamond honour (and hoping that declarer misguessed on the second round of the suit) and conceding a ruff and discard.

In the hope that the latter would not prove fatal, East led a heart. Declarer discarded a diamond from hand and ruffed in dummy. He still had a potential diamond loser, but when he followed with the ace of clubs and a club ruff East's king fell and dummy's queen was established for a second diamond discard.

It is true that declarer might have gone wrong after a switch to a diamond honour, but suppose East had simply returned a club into dummy's tenace? Declarer enjoys one discard on the ace of clubs but is left with an inescapable diamond loser.