Hare-Triggered Defense

“We need a top,” said Papa the Greek to his partner, Kararpet, as the next-to-last board of our weekly duplicate was placed on the table. “Try to steer the contract into my hand. With matchpoint scoring, that extra trick may make all the difference.”
“Do you think we have a chance?” Timothy the Toucan anxiously asked the Rueful Rabbit, who consulted his copiuos notes. “I make us two boards above average,” he replied after some thought, “but I’m not sure what average is — and they keep changing it. But we have four zeros fewer than last week when we finished halfway down, so if it’s the same average . . .” While the Rabbit went on dithering, Papa the dealer bid 1♠.

Dlr: South ♠ 10 9 8 6 4
Vul: All 4
J 7 5
♣ A Q J 10
♠ K ♠ A 3
K J 7 10 9 8 3 2
A Q 9 8 6 2 3
♣ 9 6 3 ♣ 8 7 5 4 2
♠ Q J 7 5 2
A Q 6 5
K 10 4
♣ K
1♠ 2 4♠ All Pass

It was hard to see how Papa could score his much-needed top on this board. With spades as trumps, every South had made 11 tricks, though not all had bid game.

Against the normal club lead, every South had played the same way, going up with dummy’s ♣A, continuing clubs and promptly discarding three diamonds. West ruffed, but the trump ace was the only other trick for the defense.

While the Toucan was trying unsuccessfully to dispose of his coffee cup, in which Papa had absentmindedly put out his gold-tipped cigarette, the Rabbit reviewed the situation.

What were the prospects for the defense? R.R. had reasonable expectations of three tricks — ♠A, the A and a diamond ruff. A club or a heart or maybe a second round ruff by T.T. in one suit or the other was the best hope of defeating the contract. Having completed his analysis, R.R. led the ♣4.

“Tournament director!” called Papa with a triumphant gleam in his eye. “Lead out of turn!”

The startled Toucan dropped his coffee cup in Karapet’s lap. The Rabbit apologized profusely, but no one listened.

Papa had no special objection to a club opening, but a lead into his heart tenace or up to his K was what he really desired. So he announced in a commanding voice, “I prohibit a club lead.”

Bouncing in his chair, Timothy the Toucan began to search for a safe lead.

Either a heart or a diamond looked as if it would cost a trick, and since clubs were barred, the king of trumps appeared to be the least of all evils. It might even cut down declarer’s tricks if he is set about cross-ruffing — so the Toucan led the ♠K.

Steadying himself with a sip of his favorite cherry brandy, the Rabbit surveyed the scene. After his gaffe, could the defense still come to four tricks? It never dawned on him, of course that T.T. had led a bare king. The ♠Q was surely behind it and would inevitably crash with his ♠A. So, before it was too late, the Rabbit overtook the ♠K and shot his singleton diamond through the closed hand. The Toucan made his Q and A and continued with a third diamond which the Rabbit ruffed to sink the contract.

May I lead a club now?” he asked. He seemed to remember the tournament director reading something about: ” . . . or prohibit him from leading that suit for so long as he retains the lead.”

“I rather think,” observed Oscar the Owl, “you are now three boards above average.”

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