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It was quite a subtle defensive point and a lack of clear thinking that led West in the wrong direction. I am quite sure that it was because the winning play looked wrong that he went astray.

South opened 12, North responded 1#, and South rebid 1!. North raised to 3! and South went to 4!. West led 4J, dummy played low and, after some thought, East took his ace and returned the suit with the fall of the king clarifying the spade position for both defenders. It all looked routine, and declarer started with a heart to the queen, which held, and a second heart. He tried !10 from hand but West produced the jack and drew a third round of trumps with his ace. The defence had now reached a critical point and, hoping that his partner held a missing club honour, West switched to 23. No joy; the ten from dummy held the trick and declarer was able to claim.

It all passed off unnoticed as a routine result at the table, for a diamond switch would not have helped either - after one club ruff, the suit is established for declarer, but what about a third round of spades?

Assuming declarer has a 2-4-2-5 hand pattern - very likely from his failure to bid no-trumps - the winning defence (which does not require partner to hold anything in clubs) is to concede a ruff and discard with a third round of spades! If declarer ruffs in hand, he can establish but not reach his long club suit; if he ruffs on the table and discards a club from hand, West wins the fourth round of clubs for the setting trick.

East-West game; dealer South


4Q 5

!Q 8 6 4

#A K 7 6 3

210 5

West East

4J 10 9 6 4A 7 4 3 2

!A J 9 !5 2

#J 4 #Q 10 8 2

2J 9 7 3 28 4


4K 8

!K 10 7 3

#9 5

2A K Q 6 2