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Board 23 from the July 1 Monday afternoon pairs shown below likely led to several different auctions, dependent on whether West passed or opened 1 and whether South bid 2♠ after East's 2 bid. Although 4 was a much more common contract than 5, we will assume that East is playing a 5 contract with South leading the ♠4.

Board 23
South Deals
Both Vul
K J 10 5 2
K J 6 5
A K 5 4
A 6 4 3
A Q 10 7 2
8 6 3
A 8 3
K Q 10 9 8 5 2
Q 10
Q 7 6 4
J 7
9 4 3
J 9 7 2
5 by East
Lead: ♠4

How do your prospects look in 5? 100% iron clad! Even if trumps are split 2-0 (which they are) you can draw the two trumps, ruff the two spade losers with dummy's two remaining trumps, and all you lose are two club tricks. You score the spade ace, diamond ace, seven trumps in hand, and two ruffs in dummy for eleven tricks. Easy! So we draw our two trumps, claim our eleven tricks, and proceed to the next board, right?


Since the opponents didn't cash their two club tricks immediately, we can make them pay by using dummy's diamond suit to set up at least one club pitch. But, the timing of plays early is crucial. How many entries do we have to dummy, assuming the trumps split 2-0?

1. Heart ace
2. Diamond ace
3. Two entries when ruffing the spade losers

On this deal, after winning the opening lead with your ♠A, you can afford to cash your K. But you must immediately start on the diamonds by cashing the A and ruffing a diamond with your Q. (You should always ruff high when it can't cost you to do so, and on this deal, you can afford ruffing with the Q.)

Now lead a trump to dummy's A to draw the last trump and ruff a third diamond in your hand. Ruff a small spade in dummy and ruff the fourth diamond in hand making the last diamond a winner. Finally, ruff your last small spade with dummy's last trump and cash your diamond winner, discarding a club. Making twelve tricks instead of eleven!

Playing the diamond ace and another early is often vital to have enough entries to set up your long card and get back to it. If you try drawing two trumps and then start on the diamonds, you will find you don't have enough entries.

Here is one other example:

A Q 10 8 4 3
K 4 3
A 2
7 2
K J 2
A 5 2
4 3
8 6 5 4 3
3♠ by East
Lead: K

The auction started 1♠ - Pass - 2♠ and West reasonably decided his had wasn't quite good enough to invite game. The opponents balanced by bidding 3 and West bid 3♠, ending the auction. West sees he has nine easy tricks but can use the club suit for an extra trick even if trumps split 3-1 and clubs split 4-2, but must be stingy using those three dummy entries (♠K, ♠J, A). After winning the opening lead, declarer must play clubs immediately. When the defense cashes a diamond and switches to heart, you must win in hand with the K and play another club. The defense leads a second heart won in dummy and a third club is played, ruffed high. Now ♠Q and a low spade to dummy to ruff the fourth club high with the ♠10. Finally, a low spade to dummy to draw the last trump, and you cash the 5th club pitching your heart loser for a precious overtrick.

Note you can't even afford to cash the ♠A early before playing clubs because the defense might lead a second trump making you use your entry before you want to use it.

Points to remember:

1. Long suits in dummy can often be ruffed out for extra winners. But often you must start playing this suit very early in the hand, often before drawing any trumps.

2. When you can afford to ruff high, do so!

Bud Hinckley


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