bridge : two hearts in distress

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Game all; dealer South


4Q 10 9


#K J 8 4

2K 10 6 5 4

West East

4A K 7 48 6 2

!9 8 7 6 !3 2

#Q 10 7 6 5 #A 3 2

22 2A Q 9 7 3


4J 5 4 3

!A K Q J 10 4


2J 8

The defence to a contract of Two Hearts needed careful timing on this part-score deal, but it was not forthcoming. Be honest now, would you and your partner really have done any better?

The bidding began with South opening One Heart and North, not quite worth a response at the Two level, bid One No-trump. South rebid his hearts and this ended the auction, with East avoiding the potentially expensive trap of re-opening.

West led the ace of spades and, discouraged by his partner's two, switched to his singleton club. East took his queen and cashed the ace, on which West threw the seven of spades.

An immediate third club would then have allowed declarer to discard his losing diamond, cutting the defenders' communications, but East was not tempted by this trap.

Instead, he made a fair try by cashing his ace of diamonds before leading a third club. Unfortunately for him, it was not good enough. South's trumps were sufficiently strong to ruff high, and there was no trump promotion.

Do you have any ideas? After taking his top clubs, East must lead a spade to his partner's king. With little choice, West will then have to try a diamond and, whatever declarer plays from dummy, East wins and gives his partner a spade ruff for the setting trick.

Yes, it is true that cashing both top spades before switching to clubs would have worked just as well, but at the time it was not clear to West that his partner's clubs were good enough to justify such play.