An Eye for the Main Chance

Bidding is not the only thing the game is about. It helps if you can bid to the correct contract, but it also helps if you, as declarer, make the best use of the cards that you have in front of you. That is because your score will always depend on how many tricks you manage to make, so being casual in your play will cost you match points. Here is a good example of how attention to basic declarer play principles is necessary to get the best result.

Board 24 from 3/04/2019
Dealer W Nil Vul


I’m not going to talk about the bidding, because I would need to go into all sorts of conjectures as to how and why so many WESTS played in a spade contract, from 1S to 4S. But seeing that we are talking about declarer play this time, the question will be why so few declarers managed the ten tricks that should have been available irrespective of what the defence does. It should not be too difficult for declarer to finesse in the spade suit rather than simply plonk down the ace and hope for the best. The bidding, which we are not talking about, may well have suggested to declarer that South had some points and probably the king of spades, so arranging to lead spades from the East hand, whoever is declarer, is basic, surely.

Let’s say the defence starts with two rounds of clubs, North winning the king, and switches to a heart. Whichever heart declarer guesses to play from the East hand will be covered by South and declarer will win the ace. There should be no hurry to play trumps immediately, because declarer should know to lead them through SOUTH. Declarer can give up a heart then and there and then ruff one to get to the East hand for the spade finesse, or declarer can play three rounds of diamonds and ruff the third and then lead trumps through South, there are two options. If South covers the first spade lead with the jack, declarer may guess that South has the doubleton KJ but in case South had KJx declarer may decide to enter the East hand once more to take a second finesse. Since there is no over-ruff when either red suit is ruffed, declarer will make ten tricks even when South has KJx of spades.

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