Creating a Losing Option for Declarer

August 10, 2021

Brian Senior has written about details from the first day of the GCH Fox Swiss Pairs.

When declarer is destined to be successful by normal play, the defenders' only hope is to provide him with a losing option. Such a deal came up during the first qualifying session of the GCH Fox Cup on Monday afternoon.

 Board 19. Dealer South. E/W Vul.

764   A
A3   K109542
Q10   K9543
AQ10984   5



              West     North   East       South

              –            –            –            3

              Pass      Pass      4           All Pass


The bidding was routine, though declarer would have been worried until he caught sight of dummy, which appeared to be very suitable for his purposes.

South led the king of spades to declarer's bare ace and declarer had to decide how to handle the diamond suit. We can all see that the suit is breaking three-three, meaning that a single ruff will establish the rest and leave the ace of trumps to do the job of drawing a round of trumps, but declarer had every reason from the auction to expect them to split unevenly more often than not. Accordingly, he led a diamond to the queen and ace, ruffed the spade return, and crossed to the ace of clubs to run the ten of diamonds through the hand which rated to have the length.

Though this was a losing line on the actual lie of the cards, costing declarer the overtrick which would have been delivered by simply winning the K then ruffing a diamond low, I don't think he can be criticised for following it. However, it created a small opportunity for the defence. South won the jack of diamonds and led a winning spade, choosing the eight. Dummy had to follow suit, and now North ruffed with the queen, exactly as he would were he attempting to promote the jack in partner's hand.

This should not have worked, as we will see in a moment, but declarer fell for it. He over-ruffed with the king and played the nine of hearts and ran it, losing to North's jack. North returned a low club and declarer, still confused by the defence, ruffed low and was over-ruffed – and that was down one in the proverbial laydown, giving N/S a joint top with one other pair.

Should North's subterfuge have worked? Of course not, but it never hurts to give an opponent a different picture of the deal from reality. Declarer should have realised that, if North was attempting to promote an honour in South's hand, he would never do so if he himself held queen to three hearts – with that holding he would just have discarded on the spade and hoped South held Jx. So North would have to hold queen doubleton. But that would leave South with jack to three. Running the nine would win the trick, but to no advantage for declarer, who would still have to lose the third round to the jack.