In a no-trump contract, any endeavour to avoid tempting fate may prove pivotal, as this week’s declarer discovered.

Dealer: South
E/W Game


To distinguish between a lead from a suit headed by an honour, and one only containing small cards, a fourth-highest lead promises the former, a top-of-rubbish lead the latter. So, West led 9♠. East covered dummy’s jack; declarer won with K♠. 2♣ was led and, when West played Q♣, dummy’s ace took the trick. A second club ran to West’s K♣ and West continued spades, declarer winning with dummy’s 10♠. East won the third club and shifted to Q♥, whereupon East-West took three heart tricks and 3NT was down. 

Declarer should try to keep East off lead; he has the power to lead through South’s lone heart honour. When establishing extra club tricks, when West plays Q♣, declarer should duck in dummy, hoping that West will retain the trick (even if East held K♣, it could cost his side a trick to overtake).

Winning the spade continuation, declarer plays to Q♦ in hand to lead a second club. When West plays K♣, this should be ducked again. Unable to attack hearts profitably, West will exit passively. A♣ will fell East’s J♣, allowing South to score an overtrick courtesy of three spade tricks, three clubs and four diamonds.

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