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By: Bobby Wolff

Syndicated Column

"It is quite a three-pipe problem."
                 -Arthur Conan Doyle

Opening lead: 2

On today's deal from the 1999 Cavendish, it was very hard for North-South to reach their 4-4 heart fit, particularly when East-West could get together quickly in clubs.

On the auction shown, after Sontag's natural but limited opening bid, East-West pre-empted their opponents past 3NT, and Fred Gitelman finished in 5, where he found a very neat extra chance for himself. Peter Weichsel led a helpful heart, and Gitelman won in hand, crossed to dummy with a trump to ruff a club, drew a second trump, and then cashed dummy's A to get the bad news. Now declarer seems to be out of chances except that of finding the Q onside, but Fred found the neat maneuver of leading the K to pitch a low spade.

Sontag won his A and was out of red cards. He could not safely give a ruff-sluff in clubs, or else declarer could pitch a spade and eventually ruff out the spades for a heart discard. In fact, he took the A and led another spade, hoping that his partner had the jack, but Fred now had a home for his heart loser on the K to make his contract. But there had been a defensive resource available: To beat the hand, Sontag had to underlead his AQ immediately. Would you have thought of it? That would still leave declarer with one spade loser and no parking place for his heart loser.

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