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By: Alan Truscott

Originally Published in The New York Times, September 13, 1999

Opening lead: 2

Some rare deals offer both sides an opportunity for brilliance, and the diagramed deal from the Cavendish Pairs in Las Vegas, Nev., in May is a good example. East-West were using a strong club system, so the 2 opening showed a long club suit with minimum opening values.

After a 2 overcall, West’s jump to 4 was pre-emptive. North tried 5, knowing that his K was likely to be worthless. If West had guessed to lead a spade, the defense would have prevailed easily. But he led a heart, which gave the declarer some help and left the result in the balance.

It might appear that South was still due to lose two spades and a heart, but the declarer, Fred Gitelman of Toronto, found a neat series of plays to put East to the test. He won the first trick with the J, led the 10 to dummy’s K and ruffed a club with the 9. He then cashed the A and led to the A, discovering that West still had a potential trick in the suit. The position was now this:

Gitelman led the K and threw a spade from his hand, allowing East to win with the A.

A club return, giving a ruff and sluff, would have been fatal. South would have thrown a spade, ruffing in dummy, and led a heart to the K. Then he would have run the J, establishing a winner to take care of his heart loser.

East chose to cash the A and lead another spade. He hoped that his partner held the J, but as it was, South took two spade tricks and made his game.

East had missed a difficult chance to escape from the trap. After winning the A, he should have led a low spade. Then South would have had no way to avoid the loss of two more tricks for down one.

Gitelman is a leading creator of bridge software. His latest effort is a program for complete beginners. It is available free by logging onto the American Contract Bridge League’s Web page:

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