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The Most Important Card
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My favorite defense strategy in notrump is to strip declarer, and then endplay the dummy. Sometimes it's difficult to spot this, and it helps to keep it in the back of your mind when defending. It's really fun, and can sometimes occur in suit contracts as well. Here's a hand I'll always remember from a pair game in the Gatlinburg regional a year ago. I was West, partnered by Pamela, and this was my problem:

West
AK8
4
A10973
K986
North
Q92
653
KJ8
QJ43
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
4
P
P
P

The 4 bid was from a strong player. He wasn't preempting with a weak hand in fourth chair, but bidding to make.

I led the ace of spades, ace from ace-king. Partner played a middle spot, standard carding, and declarer followed low. My understanding was that partner would discourage if she wanted a shift to diamonds, the obvious shift. So I didn't think she held the queen of diamonds. Declarer probably had solid hearts and an outside ace, which must be in clubs. So what do you think you should do?

West
AK8
4
A10973
K986
North
Q92
653
KJ8
QJ43
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
4
P
P
P

With nothing better to do, I cashed a second spade, and partner followed high while declarer played the jack.

It was matchpoints, so I cashed the ace of diamonds next by rote, and declarer followed with the queen. Then I spotted it.

My 4 of trump was staring at me. And when I looked again at dummy, there was the 3, 5 and 6 of trump.

Maybe declarer had no more spades and no more diamonds. But could he reach the dummy to discard his clubs?

So I led the 4 of trump next, and partner played the king! Oy, I had finessed her, but still, that card was always onside.

Declarer won with the ace and led the queen of trump. I leaned over to see partner's next trump, hoping to see the most important card...

It was the deuce!

Imagine that. Her king of trump was totally irrelevant -- the most important card was the 2.

West
AK8
4
A10973
K986
North
Q92
653
KJ8
QJ43
East
107653
K2
6542
107
South
J4
AQJ10987
Q
A52
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Matthew Granovetter can be reached through his website Bridgetoday.com.

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