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   Nov.  16/99






by Beverly Kraft -Eric Kokish


 Great thinkers and inventors know, perhaps intuitively, that the solution to a problem might lie in something better known in another context. On today's deal South made a difficult contract by applying a widely-used notrump technique - the hold-up play - in a suit contract.

North-South vulnerable South deals

  K 7 3
7 6 3
9 8 5 2

A J 6

9 6
9 5 4 2
A K Q J 10

8 4

Q 10 8 5 2
6 4 3

7 5 3 2

  A J 4
K Q J 10 8

K Q 10 9

West North East South
2 2 3 4



Opening Lead:

 North's voluntary raise to two hearts is the normal action, even with such meagre trump support. With two "prime" values (the
K and the A) it is dangerous to pass; both sides may be able to make a partial and South might not be able to sensibly bid a second time facing a potentially weak hand. Here North's raise improves South's hand enough to merit a jump to game.

 Put yourself in declarer's seat after West leads two high diamonds against 4
. Suppose that you ruff and lead a high trump. East wins the ace and leads another diamond and the contract is doomed. If you ruff and take your high trumps, West ruffs a black winner and cashes two diamonds. If you cash one high trump and play on the black suits, West ruffs in and forces out your last high trump with a fourth diamond, promoting his 9 for the setting trick.

 You can make 4
but it requires an unusual play. On the second diamond, discard a spade. Ruff the third diamond and lead the K. East wins but has no more diamonds. Win the black-suit return, draw trumps, and claim.

 The idea behind a hold-up play is to attempt to exhaust an opponent of the "danger suit" so he can do no damage if he later gains the lead. Typically, a high-card stopper is withheld (ducked) at notrump, aiming to cut the internal link between the opponents' hands. Declarer can apply this idea to make 4
, but the "stopper" he withholds is . . . a trump.

 There is good reason to find the winning play? The main danger to the contract is a four-one trump break. Diamonds seem to be five-three on the bidding and if West has the high diamonds, East is likely to hold the
A. If the ace is singleton, the unusual hold-up play is necessary.