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The Independent Online
Beginners are always enjoined to "play the high cards from the short hand first" to avoid blocking a suit unnecessarily. Judging correctly when to depart from normal practice is the hallmark of the expert. It was well illustrated by the American star Jeff Meckstroth on this deal.

Playing with his usual partner, Eric Rodwell, Meckstroth ended in Seven Hearts, a slightly inferior contract to the grand slam in spades. I shall not give their "modified Precision Club" auction because it was (a) too long and (b) incomprehensible.

West led the king of diamonds and, after winning in dummy, it was obvious to start on trumps. Most players would have led the ace, then crossed to the king in order to be able to play a third round, but declarer led the first trump to the king, then went over to the ace.

The trump break was bad news, of course, but the lead was in dummy. It was necessary for South to shorten his trumps to equal East's length and end with the lead on the table. At trick, four declarer ruffed a diamond in hand. Then the ace and king of clubs allowed him to ruff another diamond. It was now vital to find East with three spades and - bingo! - there they were.

Declarer cashed exactly three rounds of spades, ending in dummy, and led the queen of clubs. It did not help East to ruff, so he discarded, and South's last spade went away. Now a lead from the table produced the last two tricks.

And what if declarer had started the hearts "naturally"? He would have been one entry to the table short for the end-play, and would eventually have lost a trump trick.