Divide to Rule

Faced with these 26 cards how will you bring home 9 tricks playing in 3NT?

The lead is the queen of hearts. Dummy follows and East plays the five.

Your first decision.

What next? It's time to look for help

If you want to make the opponents help you, you must get them to a point where they have no choice, so you need to strip them of the suits you don’t want them to play. Suppose you continued with the ace of spades, queen then five to the king, West pitching a heart, eventually tabling the queen of clubs, taken by West’s ace.

Here’s the situation with dummy still to play to the sixth trick:

Not there Yet!

East continues with a small club. Here’s the position:

If: a) West does not have the ace of diamonds, otherwise East would have played the suit so West could enjoy heart winners and b) East with three diamonds to the ace would have played the suit (the defenders know from the point count and from your previous play that you don’t hold the queen), and would have done the same holding AQ10. With AQ without the 10, East could still have gambled on partner having the diamond 10, so it likely East holds only two diamonds and all the remaining clubs. 

You decide to finesse play the eight. Good decision made, as West pitches a heart. You then cash the two remaining clubs while West gets rid of a diamond and another heart.

Too Easy!

Then you play a diamond, West follows with the ten. This time no one is asking whether you played the king or finessed the jack from dummy. That’s too easy: if West had held the ace, the contract would have been defeated a long time ago!


This deal was first written up in the 1990s.

When this deal was played at the table, in the described ending East played back the eight of diamonds, making declarer’s task easier. In fact, having winning the jack diamonds declare continued with the king of diamonds and when East won, only now was the five of clubs – South didn't have any problem in finessing the eight.

Not to take anything away from declarer’s merits, West could have beaten the contract by playing back a diamond when in with the ace of clubs. But that’s bridge for you – lots of chances to be on the ball, and many more to drop it!

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