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Never give up, even if a hand looks impossible to make by Alex Maddocks

     
  spade 10 x
heart A Q 10 x x
diamond A Q x
club K Q x
 
     
  spade Q x x
heart x x
diamond 10 9 8 x x
club A x x
 
WestNorthEastSouth
-
Pass
1heart
3NT
Pass
End
1NT

After a rapid fire auction, you find yourself in 3NT at teams. Partner is pushing for a result with his raise. West leads a club. You have only 5 top tricks and prospects are very bleak. Even if the red suits are well placed for declarer, there is only one entry to hand (ace of clubs), so it won’t be possible to enjoy the diamonds and finesse twice in hearts.

First Tip: Plan ahead at trick one.

If you play too quickly and call for a small club from dummy you will use up your only entry to hand prematurely, and will not be able to recover. So you decide to set up diamonds and call for the king of clubs from dummy. Which diamond do you play now from dummy? You could try the psychological line: a small diamond hoping that East plays low with J-x-x. But you decide your best hope is to find either defender holding J-x of diamonds, so you start with the queen to keep communications open, West wins the king and exits with another club. Once again, you must win in dummy, keeping the ace of clubs as your entry to the diamonds. So now the ace of diamonds and … no joy, the jack does not fall. That looks like curtains for declarer, surely the contract is doomed now?

Second Tip: Never give up until the hand is over

Even if you can’t see a line to make, defenders often come under pressure to discard when you run off your long suit. If one defender starts to squirm, you might suddenly see an opportunity. So you exit with dummy’s last diamond, East throws a club and West wins his jack (having started with K-J-x). West exits with a third club having played middle, up, down (MUD) so he probably has three. The club exit is good news as a spade switch might have sealed your fate. You win in hand with the ace and rattle off your two winning diamonds. West throws two hearts and East a heart and a high spade. You let go of a spade and a heart from dummy. So you have 7 tricks now, and a favourable heart layout is needed. You play a small heart and West follows with the nine, so you insert the 10 (the queen would limit your chances in the suit to only one extra trick – not enough) and it holds! East follows suit. You must now take stock of the hand. You now know West started with exactly five hearts to the K-J, three diamonds to the K-J and probably 3 small clubs. That leaves him with two spades, and East has only spades left having thrown the thirteenth club earlier.

This is the position now:

     
  spade 10
heart A Q x
diamond -
club -
 
spade ? ?
heart K J
diamond -
club -
  spade ? ? ? ?
heart -
diamond -
club -
  spade Q x x
heart x
diamond -
club -
 

Suddenly you see a bright light: what if West holds K-x or A-x? You must play for that position, because you’ve worked out he will be end played with no escape. You call for the spade from dummy, playing towards your Q-x-x and East inserts the jack. What card do you play? Don’t spoil it now by wasting your queen! You play low and now West is in a hopeless position. If he plays low, East has to play a spade to West’s bare honour and he’ll now be endplayed in hearts, playing into your A-Q. So after a short pause West decides to win his ace and exit another spade to his partner’s king. You have great fun winning the final spade trick with your unsupported queen. The impossible contract has been made.