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What do you want to win

The chess player’s motto - “When you have found a good move, see if you can find a better one” is equally applicable to bridge. Here West’s defence was theoretically sound - he had made a clear signal to partner. But East, as partners can be, was blind or ignorant, and the contract was allowed to make. East’s fault? Yes - but only in part. West had an idiot-proof way to defeat the contract. Cover up East and South’s hand and see if you can find it. 

South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ J 8 7 6
Q J 10
K Q 6
♣ K Q 6
♠ 4
A K 8 4 3
A 8 7 4
♣ 10 8 7
W   E
♠ Q
9 2
J 9 5 3 2
♣ J 9 5 3 2
  ♠ A K 10 9 5 3 2
7 6 5
♣ A 4
West North East South
      1 ♠
Pass 4 ♠ Pass Pass
4 ♠ by South

West led ♥A and East remembered to signal with ♥9 to encourage a continuation. West duly played ♥K and carefully led ♥8 to the third trick - a “suit-preference signal” for partner - after trumping - to return the higher ranking of the other suits - here ♦s. If West had wanted a ♣ return, he’d lead his lowest ♥ to the third trick. Such signals are most useful in trumping situations - but only if partner is aware of them. Evidently this East was not, for after much agonising and mental coin-tossing, East returned ♣3. Declarer gratefully won ♣A, led ♠A, and cashed dummy’s ♣KQ discarding ♦10. Contract made.

West criticised East for failing to obey the suit-preference signal, but West had an idiot-proof defence - he should simply have cashed ♦A before leading the third ♥ for East to trump.

ANDREW’S TIP: A victorious defence is better than a victorious post-mortem!

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