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A Considered Duck

North Deals
None Vul
J 4 3 2
Q 9 8 6
Q J 4 3
7 4
10 9 8 6
A K 4
K 9 8 6
West North East South
Pass Pass 2
Pass Pass Dbl All Pass

Partner led the K, and I contributed the ten, declarer the queen.
Partner then switched to the J, and we took three diamond tricks, declarer following.
On lead at trick five, I shifted to a trump. Declarer ducked, and my partner won the jack. Partner exited with the 10, and declarer covered in dummy.
What to do? I know declarer started with one heart, unless that was a crafty falsecard. Declarer also started with three diamonds and five or six spades. Therefore, declarer has at least three clubs. Partner, thus, has at most two clubs, and would not have lead the ten from the ace and ten. Declarer has the ace.
So it might be right to duck this trick. Why? Consider this position:
J 4 3
Q J 4 3
K Q 5
A 7 5
10 3
9 8 6
K 9 8 6
A 10 9 6 3
A 7 5
The crucial card is the 9 in dummy. If I cover this club trick, declarer wins the ace, cashes the A (pulling my last trump), then crosses to the J. When declarer leads the 9 off dummy, she pitches her last club. Partner will ruff, but with one of his high trumps. Declarer gets off for down two.
At the table, I ducked this club trick. This play neutralized the 9 - declarer is forced to take her entry before my last trump has been drawn. If she leads the 9 off dummy, I can still ruff, and declarer is just exchanging one loser for another if she pitches a club.
Down three (-500) was worth 4.75 IMPs, while down two (-300) was worth close to zero IMPs, since we could make four hearts our way.
Koen Grauwels notes that, after my duck of the club, declarer can still ensure down 2 if he endplays West twice.
After winning the Q, declarer crosses to the A, stripping partner's last club, and then exits to West with the 10, leading to this position:
J 4
J 4
K 5
A 7 5
9 8 6
K 9
A 9 6 3
West must lead the A, which South ruffs. South then plays the A and another spade to West, and West must concede a heart trick to dummy.
<< An Even Break
Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1995-2009.
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