Bridge

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"I think that I muddled that," apologised South after going down in 5# on this deal. "You were unlucky. I am sure that I would have played it the same way," his partner replied, tactfully if not truthfully. Well, how would you have tackled matters after heart leads?

East opened 1! and South bid 3#. In the old-fashioned style still usually played in the rubber game, this was strong and North found a raise to 4#. South went on to game in diamonds. West led the king and another heart.

Declarer ruffed and cashed #A, expecting to make an early claim. There was a hitch, however, when East showed out. Next came the 4A, a club to the ace, the 4K and a spade ruff. It was easy enough to come to hand with a top trump and ruff the last spade, but now the lead was on the table. Declarer led a club but, hardly surprisingly, East was able to win and push through a third round of hearts to promote his partner's #J for the setting trick.

Well, what was South's error (which I am quite sure that North had spotted)? It was premature to draw any rounds of trumps before unblocking 4A. Try the 4A at trick two - surely safe enough. Now declarer comes to hand with a trump (discovering the now only mildly irritating 3-0 break in the suit), and ruffs a spade. Then he comes to hand with a second top trump, ruffs his last small spade, and still has 2A as a re-entry to hand to complete the drawing of trumps.

Game all; dealer East

North

4A

!7 6 5 4 2

#10 9 7 6

2J 7 4

West East

4J 5 4 2 4Q 10 9 8

!K 3 !A Q J 10 8

#J 4 2 #none

29 8 6 2 2K Q 10 3

South

4K 7 6 3

!9

#A K Q 8 5 3

2A 5

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