N-S vulnerable

NORTH (D)

{spade} K 10 6 3

{heart} A K

{diam} 8 7 2

{club} A K 10 4

WEST

{spade} 7

{heart} J 9 2

{diam} Q J 10 6

{club} J 9 7 6 5

EAST

{spade} A Q 4

{heart} Q 10 7 5 4

{diam} K 9 5 3

{club} 3

SOUTH

{spade} J 9 8 5 2

{heart} 8 6 3

{diam} A 4

{club} Q 8 2

The bidding: North EastSouthWest1 {club} Pass1 {spade} Pass 3 {spade} Pass4 {spade} All Pass Opening lead: {diam} Q

Today's declarer should refuse the first diamond. This is one of those plays a good declarer makes without knowing exactly why. He just realizes he must lose one diamond and senses that it's better to lose it when he chooses than when the defenders choose.

Suppose South instead takes the first diamond and lets the nine of trumps ride. East wins with the queen and does not cash the king of diamonds; he shifts to his singleton club. When South leads another trump, East wins, underleads in diamonds to West and gets a club ruff. Down one.

If South holds up his ace of diamonds (or if he wins and returns a diamond), he breaks up the defenders' communication. West will continue diamonds (though it wouldn't matter even if he shifted to a club), and South can take the ace and start the trumps. South eventually loses two trumps but nothing else.

The hold-up play is one of declarer's valuable weapons. This week we'll see when he should hold up a winner and when he must not.

Daily Question

You hold:

{spade} K 10 6 3 {heart} A K {diam} 8 7 2 {club} A K 10 4.

Your partner opens one heart, you respond two clubs, he bids two diamonds and you try two spades. Partner then bids 2NT. The opponents pass. What do you say?

Answer: Bid 4NT, not the Blackwood ace-asking convention since you haven't agreed on a trump suit, but a raise that invites slam at notrump. If partner has minimum values, he'll pass. If he has a hand such as A 4, Q J 9 7 3, A K J 4, 7 6, he'll bid 6NT.

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