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Playing for overtricks

On our featured – much discussed – grand slam deal from our Wednesday afternoon Duplicate you have 12 top tricks (assuming trumps are no worse than 3-1). What is the safest way to make the thirteenth, bearing in mind that suits are unlikely to split evenly given East’s preemptive 3 opener?


East Deals
N-S Vul
A K 2
K 2
A K 2
A 6 4 3 2
Q J 10 9 6
9 7 5
Q J 10 8
W   E
J 10 8
7 4
Q J 10 8 6 4 3
Q 7 6 5 4 3
A 8 5 3
K 9 5
West North East South
    3 1 3 ♠2
4 3 4 NT4 Pass 5 5
Pass 5 6 Pass 6 ♣7
Pass 7 ♠8 Pass Pass
  1. Weak with a goodish seven-card suit.
  2. Marginal – normally you’d have opening values to bid over an opposing preempt. But pass is too supine with such a shapely hand including a void in their suit.
  3. Trying to make a nuisance of himself.
  4. Pinches himself and checks the backs of the cards to verify that everybody is playing with the same pack. Satisfied they are, he uses Roman Key Card Blackwood (spades).
  5. One or four of “five” aces (including ♠K); note that South does not show his diamond void as an ace.
  6. Asking for ♠Q.
  7. Showing ♠Q and ♣K – in case North is interested in 7♠.
  8. Indeed he is – and knowledge of ♠Q and ♣K opposite is just what he needed.

How about winning the queen of hearts lead with the king, trying ace-king of trumps (slightly surprisingly West, the non-preemptor, discarding), then cashing the ace of hearts and ruffing a heart with dummy’s low trump? No good – East overruffs. Strike one.

How about – after winning the heart and trying two top trumps – trying the king of clubs and leading over to the ace (planning to throw your third club on a top diamond)? No good – East ruffs. Strike two.

The best line, pretty much guaranteeing 13 tricks (with no void lurking) unless West has a singleton club (unlikely given East’s preempt) is as follows: Win the ace of hearts (preserving dummy’s king), cash the king of clubs, cross to the king of trumps (but don’t play a second trump), cash the ace-king of diamonds discarding both small clubs from hand (key play) then lead a low club. It will do East no good to ruff the small club (you’ll overruff) – he will do best to throw his remaining heart. You ruff, cash the queen of trumps, cross to the ace drawing East’s trumps), then cash the ace of clubs, ruff a fourth club, back to the king of hearts and enjoy the fifth-round club length winner – your extra trick. Your remaining card is a trump and that’s 13 tricks and grand slam made. No justice but at another table North made 7 NT for the extra ten points and a top. He cashed his spade and diamond winners and watched West squirm, unable to guard both hearts and clubs.

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