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It’s Complicated

Dlr:
South
Vul:
Both
North
♠ K 10 7 4
J 2
K 10 4 3
♣ K 7 5
South
♠ A 9 8 3
A K 7 4
A 7 6
♣ 9 2
West North East South
1NT
Pass 2♣ Pass 2♠
Pass 4♠ All Pass

You open a 15-17 1NT and partner uses Stayman to get to the normal contract of 4♠. West starts with the ♣Q. You are not thrilled to see dummy’s club holding, but you have a job to do: take 10 tricks. Can you see a way to avoid a minus score?

Click for Solution

Declarer played low from dummy on West’s opening lead, so West continued with the *♣J, which also won the trick. The club continuation went to dummy’s king and East’s ace. Declarer ruffed the latter and paused to consider his options: he had a probable loser in trumps as well as an almost certain loser in diamonds. The best chance might be to make the former disappear in a “Devil’s Coup.” For that to occur, trumps would need to be 2-3 with split honors. Declarer would also need to be able to cash the red-suit winners, with East having more hearts than West.

Accordingly, declarer continued by cashing the A and K, then ruffing a heart low in dummy. Next, he cashed the K and A and led his remaining heart. West discarded a club and dummy’s ♠7 won the trick. Declarer next move was to lead a low diamond from dummy. East discarded his remaining club and West won the trick with the 9. West was now endplayed, reduced to the doubleton jack of trumps and the Q. If he exited with a trump, declarer would make the rest of the tricks by playing for the queen and jack of trumps to be in different hands. West played the Q and East could do no better than ruff with the ♠Q. Declarer overruffed with the ace and led a low trump from hand, putting in dummy’s ♠10 when West followed with the 6. The ♠K was declarer’s 10th trick.

Note that if East had started with a queen-low or jack-low in trumps on the above red-suit layout, then he could have defeated the contract by ruffing the third round of diamonds low and then exiting with his remaining trump. The full deal:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
Both
North
♠ K 10 7 4
J 2
K 10 4 3
♣ K 7 5
West
♠ J 6
8 6 5
Q 9 8 2
♣ Q J 10 4
East
♠ Q 5 2
Q 10 9 3
J 5
♣ A 8 6 3
South
♠ A 9 8 3
A K 7 4
A 7 6
♣ 9 2