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Cross ruffing is rarely wise

The optimum strategies for declarer in a trump contract can be categorised into the following:

(1) Draw trumps straight away.
(2) Cash/set up overlapping winner(s) for quick discard(s).
(3) Set up a long side-suit, to create length winners.
(4) Ruff in the short-trump hand (typically dummy).
(5) Crossruff.

Crossruffing, our new theme, means trumping in both hands, such that you never draw the opponents’ trumps. As such it is a very committal line, and not one that should be entered into without good reason.

South Deals
None Vul
A Q 4 3
A 7 6 4 2
Q 6 2
Q J 10
10 9 5 3
A Q 9 6 5
W   E
9 8 6 2
K 9 8 5
K J 7 2
K J 7 5
A K J 8 4
10 8 4
West North East South
Pass1 1  Pass 1 2
Pass 4 3 All pass  
  1. Tempting to overcall 2 , with its
    space-consuming advantages. But the suit
    quality is ordinary and West is vulnerable.
  2. Showing his five-four shape.
  3. Playing Splinter Bids, North bids 4Cto
    show a game-raise in spades with club


What happened
West led  Q, and declarer won  A and led a club. West won  10 with  Q, and switched to his singleton  10, to cut down ruffing. Winning dummy’s  Q, declarer began crossruffing. He ruffed  2, ruffed  4, ruffed  4 (with  J), and ruffed  8.

With just  K in dummy and  A in hand, declarer’s goose was already cooked. When he led out  Q and a second diamond, East ruffed and led back a trump.  K and  A crashed together, and East was able to ruff a third diamond, whereupon the defence cashed their remaining clubs. Down two.

What should have happened
If declarer ruffs in both hands, it will not be long before an opponent holds more trumps than either. His diamonds will then be dead. Either ruff hearts in hand, or ruff clubs in dummy; but not both. The best line, to optimise overtricks as well as the contract, is to win  A, ruff  2 (with  7), then play  K and  5 to  Q. If both follow twice to reveal a 3-2 trump split, ruff  4 (with  J), cross to  Q, cash  A (drawing their last trump), then enjoy winning diamonds. 12 tricks.

In fact West discards on the second trump, so now you must settle for 11 tricks, abandoning the second heart ruff. Return to  J, back to  Q, cash  A (drawing East’s last trump), and lead to your diamonds. Game made plus one.

If you remember one thing...
With a side-suit source of tricks (as here in diamonds), a crossruff will never be wise.

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