X-Clubs 38

This deal gave our declarers the opportunity to match Deep Finesse in the play, once again just by following best declarer play recommendations without the need to see through the cards, as Deep Finesse can do.

Board 17 from Tuesday 15/11/22
Dealer North Nil Vul


All Norths would have opened 1S and all Easts should have ended up in 4H with the likely lead of a spade (“lead partner’s suit”). Dummy wins the king. How should declarer play the trumps?

There is only one correct way: you must lead a low heart and put in the jack. Leading the queen from dummy, in the absence of any intermediate cards will guarantee at least one trump loser unless North is so inept as not to cover. Since North has opened the bidding, the king is almost certainly with North, and when a trump is led to the jack, it holds. It is sensible now to cash the ace and hope to drop the king, which does happen.

Should declarer now draw the last trump? If declarer thinks about it further, declarer will see that by drawing the last trump, there will be no way to avoid a spade loser, but by ruffing the spade loser with the only trump left in dummy, the queen, a trump trick will be promoted for South. Since any adverse ruff will therefore not make any difference, declarer should abandon trumps and look for extra tricks elsewhere. There can be no harm in leading the seven of diamonds and finessing the nine! The diamond jack is the only point that South can have, given North’s opening bid. Because South has the jack, North must win the king and will lead another spade. Now declarer ruffs a diamond, and enters dummy with a club. Because the position of both the jack and ace of diamonds is known, declarer leads the queen of diamonds, and when North has to cover with the ace, South’s jack is swallowed up in the process. The final trump can now be led to dummy and the nine of diamonds takes care of the losing spade.

Deep Finesse would have found this play very easy, but so should any declarer who takes the time to think about the basic plays (like a low trump to the jack) and knows how to count points and establish any tricks wherever possible. Yet, few declarers across the whole of X-Clubs managed twelve tricks, with some making no more than ten.