Join Bridge Winners
Take Your Only Chance

With three minutes left in the round, the final board is dealt, and you pick up a boring hand. The dealer on your right opens 1, LHO responds 1. RHO rebids 2. LHO jumps to 3NT, and the auction is over in about 20 seconds. Partner leads K, and you see

East
A4
AK10842
Q5
974
South
Q987
QJ963
63
83
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Partner continues with A, J, then 4 to declarer's 10. To earlier tricks the declarer contributed 8, 7 and 2. Dummy discards two low hearts, and you discard a low heart and a low club.

Declarer then leads 10 and let it ride. You win the queen, lead back a club, but declarer rises with the Ace, plays a low spade to the Ace, takes Ace and King of hearts, discarding Jack and ten of clubs in his hand, then calls a low club and claims. The round ended on time. Later you found out that you got a zero for that board. Could you have done better?

Of course, partner could have saved his J to prevent the declarer from scoring his 10 for the ninth trick, but from his perspective, it was reasonable to expect winning Q to take his fifth diamond as the setting trick. You, on the other hand, could have defeated the contract when you had the chance. Let's rewind to the moment when the declarer let 10 ride.

Before taking your Q, which was a sure winner, try to count their winners. The declarer had already won a diamond. To jump to game, he must have all remaining high cards except the King or Queen of clubs, so they have at least six tricks in the majors. If he is missing K, he would have no chance, so let's assume that he also has the King, which would be his ninth trick. But, do you still have a chance to defeat the contract?

The way the declarer played spades was a bit suspicious. You would expect him to try hearts while there is still an entry to the dummy. He has not seen your hand but seems to have already given up on developing tricks in hearts. Could he be void in hearts?

That is actually your only chance of defeating the contract.

Based on the play of the first four tricks, your partner is probably short in spades, and you are the favorite of holding the queen. The declarer needs to lose a spade to you early while still maintaining control and communication. Your Q is a sure winner, so there is no rush to take it now.

This was the full deal:

West
KJ1062
10872
AKJ10
North
53
75
AKJ94
Q652
East
A4
AK10842
Q5
974
South
Q987
QJ963
63
83
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Watch what happens when you refuse to win Q. The declarer is now in trouble. He cannot run his spades without forcing out your Queen, and he would have to first take the Ace -- the only entry to dummy, and he would have to take the Ace and King of hearts immediately or they will be out of reach forever. Should he do that, when you gain the lead with Q, you can take your heart winners to defeat the contract by two tricks. Without the heart tricks, the declarer will have to try the club finesse and go down when partner wins the Queen and takes the 13th diamond.

Finding the declarer with a void in his partner's suit is not a good chance, but if it is your only chance, take it.

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