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   Nov. 09/99




Can You Defeat Three Notrump?


by Beverly Kraft -Eric Kokish


 On today's deal, from the semifinals of the 1999 Canadian Teams Championships, all four North-South pairs reached 3NT, but the contract was made only twice, both times with South declarer.

North-South vulnerable East deals

  K 10 9
10 7

A Q 6 5 3 2

A J 7 5 4
J 2
A Q 5 4 3


Q 10 8 5 3
9 8 6

J 9 8 7

  Q 8 3 2
9 7 6 4
K J 2

K 4

West North East South
    Pass Pass
1 2 Pass 2NT
3 3NT Dbl End

 Opening Lead:

 In the diagrammed auction South was doubled by East after West hazarded two bids on his own. Declarer played dummy's
7, took East's eight with the jack, led a spade to the ten, then the K, West ducking. Now three rounds of clubs (heart discard) and two high hearts. West discarded a spade and a diamond (nothing else would have helped) so declarer exited with a spade. After taking two spades West had give declarer a second diamond, his ninth trick. The diamond trick conceded on the go had left the defence badly placed.

 Although the other successful declarer was not doubled and West had not bid diamonds, the "surprise" diamond lead hinted at West's distribution. Declarer adopted a similar line and made 3NT without using the long clubs.

 At a third table. North declared after overcalling 1
with 1NT. East led a heart. Declarer led the 10 to dummy's queen. West won and knocked out the A and declarer could not afford to clear clubs because East's hearts had been established. Without that early diamond trick, declarer could not negotiate the four tricks he needed in spades and diamonds and had to go one down. He would not have made 3NT by clearing clubs first because West would have discouraged spades and East's diamond switch would have established that suit before declarer could make a spade trick.

 There is, however, a somewhat obscure club play that might work: win the first heart and lead a club, following low from South when East plays the seven, eight, or nine. West would have to win the ten but can do no better than clear hearts. Declarer would unblock clubs and lead a spade to his ten, coming to five clubs, two hearts, and two spades, with East unable to regain the lead.

 As East you would not permit this to happen, of course. When declarer leads the first club from hand, you would play the jack.