Mike's Advice


A Play Hand — All About the Trump Suit

This is a real hand from my archives. I had about 10 masterpoints at the time. The game was rubber bridge and North-South had 80 on toward winning the rubber. The stakes were high and when South opened 1♣, it was tacitly understood by all four players that it was not going to get passed out. To everyone’s surprise, 1♣ was the end of the bidding. It would give South the rubber if it fetched.
West leads the ♠J. How would you like South’s chances of making 1♣ with these cards? Can you see a way to do it?

♠ 7 6 3
9 7 6 5 2
8 7 3 2
♣ Q
♠ A K Q 2
A 10 4
A J 4
♣ A 5 3

South proved that it was easy. He took the first seven tricks.
He took the first spade trick and cashed two more spades. When these held up, he took his two red aces too. Finally, he led the two of spades towards the dummy.
Here is the complete hand:

♠ 7 6 3
9 7 6 5 2
8 7 3 2
♣ Q
♠ J 10 9 ♠ 8 5 4
K J 8 3 Q
Q 10 9 6 5 K
♣ K ♣ J 10 9 8 7 6 4 2
♠ A K Q 2
A 10 2
A J 4
♣ A 5 3

When South led the ♠2, West could ruff with the king but that would leave the queen as declarer’s seventh trick. If West did not ruff, the ♣Q would score immediately. One way or the other, the ♣Q was going to score en passant.
So South scored up game and rubber.
It looks like a hand for the record book. But aside from this, there are still some interesting and informative items worth looking at in this hand. How many can you spot?
West started fussing about East’s passing it out in 1♣. Feel free to look at the East hand. Would you bid something when your opponents are trying to play in your eight card suit? No. Balancing was not an issue.
So what else is interesting here?
If West was thinking, he would have realized that East would balance with almost any hand since letting South play and make 1♣ would be expensive. The only kind of hand that East was likely to have was one with some clubs. Had West led the ♣K, South would have failed by a trick and they would still be playing.
Is that all there is?
No. Note South’s play. He cashed his spades, getting the needed 3-3 break, and then he cashed his red aces. Look closely at the East hand. If South does not take his A and A, East will be able to discard a red card when South ruffs the fourth spade.
There is a rule that says when you are crossruffing, you should cash your outside winners early in the play. This hand is not precisely a member of the crossruff family but it turns out that the rule was necessary.
South had the last word. “I should have opened 1NT.”

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