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Third Hand Plays

Third hand plays high is axiomatic to good defence. However, when dummy has unplayed high cards, the third hand must be careful.
J 10 2
6 led
W   you
A Q 9 4
K 8 7

After  6,  2, you as East should play  9, retaining  AQ to beat dummy’s  J10, restricting declarer to one diamond trick (  K). Erroneously play  A, and declarer can subsequently lead dummy’s  J for a finesse of your  Q, securing two diamond tricks.

Board Teams
North Deals
None Vul
A Q 9 6 5
6 5 3
J 10 7 3
10 3
K 8 6 4 3
K 9 7 2
5 2
W   E
9 5 2
J 10 8 4
A Q 9 8 4
K J 8 7 4
A J 10 7
K 6
West North East South
  Pass Pass 1 
Pass 4 1 Pass 4 N2
Pass 5 3 Dbl4 5 5
Pass 6  All pass  
  1. Splinter bid, showing a singleton (void) heart and a game raise in spades. North is minimum but knows (as a passed hand) partner won’t play him for much more than he has.
  2. Loves the singleton heart opposite, facing his length, so uses Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  3. One (or four) of five aces including the king of spades (playing “1430”, as many top players prefer).
  4. Lead-directing.
  5. Asking for the queen of trumps.

There was a similar position in the club suit on this slam deal from the recent Bermuda Bowl quarterfinal in Lyon between USA 1 (favourites for the trophy) and dark horses Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian West led the five of clubs in response to East’s lead directing double of 5 . Dummy played low and East played third hand high, the ace. He returned a second club, hoping West could ruff.

The USA declarer Bobby Levin won the king of clubs, drew trumps finishing in dummy and led the jack of clubs for a ruffing finesse. East covered with the queen, declarer ruffing. Declarer cashed the ace of hearts, ruffed a heart and led the promoted ten of clubs, discarding the queen of diamonds from hand. Twelve tricks and slam made.

Try making 6  if East refrains from playing the ace of clubs at trick one, instead inserting the eight, retaining his ace-queen-nine to beat dummy’s jack-ten-seven (don’t try too long — you can’t). After winning his king, declarer cannot generate a second club trick and must fall back on the diamond finesse (low to the queen). With West holding the king, that’s down one.

Although the USA won a handsome swing by making 6  on this Bulgarian misdefence, it was Bulgaria who won the match 239-226 and advanced to the semifinal.

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