Bridge

IT IS well-known that with a combined holding of Qx facing Axx in a suit it is better for the hand with the queen to be declarer in No- trumps. Then, if the suit is led, you are guaranteed two stoppers whereas if the player with the ace is declarer you may find yourself with only one.

A holding of Jxx facing Ax is altogether more delicate. It will pay off to have the player with the ace as declarer if the opponent on lead holds both the king and queen, but there is another curious possibility, illustrated by this deal from the Macallan Invitation Pairs played earlier this year. With North as declarer in 3 No-trumps, the lead of !10 leaves declarer a trick short for it is extremely easy for the defenders to ensure that their heart suit does not become blocked.

Now try it with South as declarer. Presumably West leads a low heart (the king is no better) and East wins with his queen. But, on the heart return, West is caught. To jettison his king gives South a second trick in the suit while, if he plays low, the suit is blocked and declarer has time to play spades for his ninth trick.

So, how did Nicola Smith and Justin Hackett find the right declarer? This was their auction: #1 (#2) - !2; (Dble) Redble - 42; 23 - #3; !3 - 3 NT. The overcall of #2 showed the majors, so South's !2 showed a sound raise in diamonds. They certainly did better than the rest of the field - the key point was that West's double of !2 strongly suggested a top honour in the suit, so East would not hold both king and queen.

East-West game; dealer South

North

410 8

!A 2

#A K 9 4 3

2A J 7 4

West East

46 3 2 4K Q 9 5 4

!K 8 5 !Q 10 9 6 3

#5 #7 2

2K 10 8 5 3 2 2Q

South

4A J 7

!J 7 4

#Q J 10 8 6

29 6

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