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The fatal trick

More fatal errors are made at trick one — by far — than any other trick. As declarer, think before playing from dummy, even if dummy’s play is seemingly a no brainer.
East Deals
None Vul
A 10
A J 9
7 4
K Q 7 5 3 2
7 6 5 4 2
A Q 10
J 10 9 6
W   E
Q J 9 8 3
K J 9 5
A 8 4
K Q 10 8 7 4 3 2
8 6 3 2
West North East South
    1  4 
4  6  Pass Pass

On today’s slam deal, West leads the seven of spades. Happy to have avoided a diamond lead and a quick demise, you speedily play low from dummy to win your singleton king.

Needing to establish dummy’s clubs, at trick two you cross to the nine of hearts, cash the ace of spades discarding a diamond, then lead the king of clubs. East covers with the ace and you ruff. You cross to the jack of hearts, discarding a diamond, and cash the promoted queen of clubs, discarding another diamond. You ruff a third club and cross to dummy’s ace of hearts but, with West still holding a winning club, you’ve run out of entries. You have to concede two diamonds — down one.

My friend Giles Hargreave, declaring Six Hearts at the Portland Club, was happy to have avoided a diamond lead but there was no rush for him to play from the dummy. It was not as though West would suddenly whip away his spade lead and replace it with a diamond. Hargreave realised if he won the first spade in hand, the autopilot play, he would be an entry short to set up dummy’s two long clubs.

Declarer needed four dummy entries to set up the long clubs (assuming, as he had to, the suit split 4-3 with East holding ace): three ruffing entries and an entry to return to dummy at the end. He had three heart entries. The fourth dummy entry would have to be the ace of spades. Rising with the ace of spades at trick one would cost him one spade trick but gain him two club tricks. So that’s what he did.

After winning the ace of spades and crashing his king (cue admiration from the other players), at trick two he led the king of clubs, ruffing out East’s ace. He crossed to the nine of hearts, cashed the queen of clubs, discarding a diamond, and ruffed a third club (both opponents following to reveal the 4-3 split). He crossed to the jack of hearts and ruffed a fourth club. He then returned to the ace of hearts and could now enjoy the two long clubs. Away went two of his three remaining diamonds. He conceded only one diamond — 12 tricks and slam made.

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