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Committed to a crossruff?

The ingredients for a crossruff are:

(1) Two suits containing a singleton/void facing length, ideally headed by the ace.
(2) Good trumps (spot cards as well as honours).

The process is:

(A) Cash as many side-suit winners as you need (before opponents discard their cards).
(B) Work out how many trump tricks you need, so that you avoid either (i) trumping too high, and never scoring lower trump(s) or (ii) trumping too low, and getting overruffed.

It must be emphasised that the crossruff is a unique declarer-play strategy, the only one that never involves drawing the opposing trumps. As such there is no Plan B - it’s Do or Die. I have seen more declarers fail through crossruffing when they shouldn’t; than declarers fail because they didn’t crossruff when they should have.

South Deals
None Vul
K J 10 3
A J 10 9 8
8 5 2
9 6
Q 7 2
A J 10 6 3
K 9 7
W   E
8 7 5
K 6 4 3
Q 9
Q J 10 3
A Q 4 2
K 8 7 5 2
A 6 4
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 1 
Pass 3  Pass 4 1
All pass      
  1. Close, but the shape looks good.


What happened
Winning West’s  7 lead (to East’s  10) with  A, declarer crossed to  A and led  4 to  K. West won  A, cashed  K, then led over to East’s  J. Sensing the impending crossruff, East switched to  5. Declarer could no longer succeed. He ran the lead around to dummy’s  10, ruffed  8 with  4, ruffed  2 with  3, ruffed  9 with  Q, ruffed  5 with  J, ruffed  10 with  A, and ruffed  7 with  K. Down one, despite scoring seven trump tricks.

What should have happened
Look at dummy’s heart sequence. With West most unlikely to hold both  K and  Q (no  K lead), a ruffing finesse line is preferable. Win  A, cross to  A, then lead  J, discarding a club from hand (as East plays low - best). West wins  Q and the defence cash one club and switch to a trump (best). Win dummy’s  10, then lead  10, planning to discard if East plays low. Say he covers with  K. Ruff (with  Q), lead  4 to  J, ruff  8 (with  A), then, with only diamonds remaining, lead  K. West wins ¨A and (also with only diamonds) returns the suit. Ruff (low) in dummy), draw East’s last trump, and cash the promoted  98. 10 tricks and game made.

If you remember one thing...
Be sure the ingredients are right for a crossruff, and that there’s no better route. Otherwise don’t try it.

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