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Which card should declarer play

When declarer possesses two (or more) cards that are adjacent (eg a king and a queen) then they have equal value. It may seem of little relevance which one he chooses to play. Not so!

 

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

West led  5 and declarer overtook dummy’s  J with  A to lead  3 to dummy’s  8. East won  Q and, realising from observing dummy’s  KQ that there was no future in returning partner’s lead, naturally switched to his fine ♣ suit. He led ♣ Q - top of a sequence - but declarer played ♣ K which held the trick and led  5 to  9. East won  K and paused to reflect. His ♣ switch had not worked too well - it was clear declarer also held ♣ A because his ♣ K had won the trick (if West held ♣ A he would have beaten ♣ K with it). There was only one suit left for East to lead - ♠s. He led ♠ 2 and West beat ♠ 10 with ♠ K, cashed ♠ A and led ♠ 6. East won ♠ Q and cashed ♠ 9 - the setting trick.
But it would all have been different if declarer had won East’s ♣ Q switch with ♣ A (not ♣ K). Now East would have had no way of knowing who held ♣ K and might easily have persisted with ♣s when he won  K. And then declarer would have made his contract - three s, three s and ♣ AK making up his eight tricks.

ANDREW’S TIP: As declarer, play the highest of touching cards to leave the defenders in the dark.

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