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Extra chance

Assume you’re South and reach four spades on the bidding shown. (North’s two-club bid is Stayman, asking whether you have a four-card major, and East’s double shows good clubs.) West leads the ace and another club. East wins the second club with the queen and continues with the king. How would you play the hand?

When the deal occurred, declarer ruffed the king of clubs with the ace of spades (to guard against a possible overruff by West), and then drew trumps with the K-Q-J. Next he led a heart to the ace followed by a heart to the jack, losing to the queen. East returned a club, forcing dummy’s last trump. When the hearts failed to divide evenly, South had to lose another trick at the end for down one.

South bemoaned his bad luck in finding the hearts divided 4-2 and the doubleton queen offside. But he should have made the hand anyway.

Declarer erred when he took the heart finesse. Since he needed only three tricks from the heart suit to make his contract, the finesse was not really necessary.

To give himself the best chance of scoring a third heart trick, South should draw trumps, cash the K-A of hearts, in that order, and then lead a third heart toward the jack. This will yield an extra heart trick whenever:

— West started with any number of hearts including the queen;

— The missing hearts divide 3-3;

— East started with the Q-x;

— South’s actual line of play would have succeeded against the first two cases, but it did not guard against the third, and it cost him his contract.

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