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It was an odd thing: the bidding, the play and even the post-mortem followed identical paths at both tables on this deal from match play.

South opened 1#, West pre-empted with 44 and, under pressure, North decided to take his chances with 5#. All passed, West led a top spade against 5#, and switched to the 2J at trick two. Declarer won, drew trumps, eliminated clubs and spades, and turned his attention to the rather delicate position in the heart suit.

The !J was led from dummy and covered by the queen, king and ace. On lead, West was restricted to returning a heart (as anything else would have conceded a ruff and discard) and chose !2. At least this (unlike a return of !7) gave declarer a guess: should he try the eight from dummy or play low? Both Souths got it right by playing !4 and now, whatever East played, there was no second loser in hearts and the contract was made.

Both Easts were apologetic. "I should have saved in 54. Even if the defenders manage to untangle their winners, some sort of end-play in hearts sets in and we escape for only 500."

Everyone missed a critical point. It was West who should have apologised. When the first round of hearts started jack, queen and king, West should have held off. This leaves dummy with !8,4, East with !9,5, declarer with !10,6 and West with !A,7. Can you see the difference? It is declarer who has to play hearts a second time and, no matter what he tries, he has to lose two tricks in the suit.

North-South game; dealer South



!J 8 4

#K J 10 7 3

2A 7 6 2

West East

4A K Q 9 8 6 4J 5 3 2

!A 7 2 !Q 9 5

#6 #5 4

2J 10 9 28 5 4 3


410 4

!K 10 6 3

#A Q 9 8 2

2K Q