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Top Tricks

10 7 2
8 6 5 4 3
A J 9 3
A K Q 9 3
10 9 8 4
10 8 6
8 4
A K J 10
6 5 3 2
Q 7 5
J 6 5
9 7 2
A K Q 7
K 4 2


East/West have a running nine tricks, while North/South have eight. How eight? North wins the J, then leads the J, forcing East to cover. South then runs his diamonds and finesses in clubs against West's 10.
In fact, North/South have the first seven tricks off the top in any contract, since East/West are forced to follow to three clubs and four diamonds. In every contract, they can manufacture an eight tricks as well, as we'll see.


If East/West declare spades, North/South takes their seven tricks, then North plays a fourth round of clubs, promoting an eighth trick in trumps when South ruffs with the J.
If North/South declare spades, West just pull trumps and takes the four heart tricks, for nine defensive tricks.


If East/West declare hearts, North/South again take the top seven tricks, North pitching three spades on diamonds. At trick eight, North exits passively with a heart. East/West never score a spade, because North's long trump keeps East from pulling all of them, and when North gets in, he leads his last club, promoting another trump for himself. East/West are left with the four trump tricks he started with.


If North/South are on lead, they can take four diamonds and four clubs, for eight tricks.
If East/West are on lead, they take six top tricks and lead a fourth round of hearts, South forced to ruff. Now East/West get two natural trump tricks, for eight tricks. (West sheds clubs on East's hearts, so if South doesn't ruff the fourth heart, East just gives his partner a club ruff.)


As usual, North/South take the first eight tricks.
But if East/West are on lead, they take the first six tricks and promote a seventh by leading a fourth round of hearts.

Post Mortem

East/West can't make more than five tricks declaring any contract here. In hearts or notrumps, only four.
North/South can make as many as six tricks only in clubs and hearts.
The play of leading the club jack from A-J-9-x opposite K-x-x is called a "backward finesse," if done by declarer, or a "surrounding play" if done by the defense. Peculiar that the terminology would be so different.
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Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1999-2009.
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