Puzzle This

North
♠ 8 2
5 4 3
7 4
♣ K 9 8 7 4 2
South
♠ A K J 10 5 4 3
A K Q
K 10 5
♣ —

As South, you declare 4♠ against the lead of the J. After winning the ace, what do you do next?

View Solution
You need 10 tricks. If the trump queen comes down singleton or doubleton, you’ll take seven spade tricks and three hearts to make your contract. Your only losers will be the three diamonds you hold. But what if the ♠Q is not so cooperative? Is there anything you can do about that?

There’s no entry to dummy to take the trump finesse (assuming you even wanted to try it), so the only other stratagem to dispose of a loser is to try to ruff a diamond in dummy.

“That’s too obvious,” you say. “The defense will surely lead trumps every time I let them in with a diamond to stop me from ruffing in dummy.” That’s true, but consider this possible layout:

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

If you exit with the K(!) at trick two, West must win the trick, but notice he can’t hurt you. If he exits with a trump, he’ll scoop up his partner’s trump queen for you. On a club or a heart return, you’ll win and play another diamond. Regardless of which defender wins that trick, you’ll win the return and ruff a diamond in dummy.

There’s a 50–50 chance that West holds the A, but what if East holds that card and returns a trump at trick two? Win the ♠A and try the 10! Who knows? Maybe West has the Q J. Maybe trumps will be 2–2. The point is this: You still retain all of your original chances plus some extra ones by playing the K at the second trick.

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