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This is from yesterday's New York Post. North-South are playing at four spades. Vulnerable, they had bid 1 spade, 2 spades, 4 spades, no opposing bids. Here's the hand:

        North
        (s) AQ9
        (h) K63
        (d) 854
        (c) 7432

  West                  East

(s) 53                 (s) 42    
(h) JT97               (h) AQ852
(d) QT72               (d) 963   
(c) Q98                (c) KT5    

         South
        (s) KJT876
        (h) 4
        (d) AKJ
        (c) AJ6

South has six easy trump tricks, two side aces and a king for an easy nine. The tenth trick will come from a finesse or end play into one of South's minor suit tenaces.

West leads the Jack of hearts, which East correctly overtakes with the Queen in order to lead a diamond to West's Queen. South intercepts with the King, and leads a trump to dummy in order to lead a low club. East covers with the King. All understandable so far. Here's where I think the narrative goes wrong, with a focus on the part in bold:

"South took the ace, led a trump to dummy, and returned a second club, five Jack, Queen. He ruffed the next heart, lost another club, and got to dummy with a trump to pitch his Jack of diamonds on the good club."

Doesn't South need to cover East's five of clubs with the six so that West wins with the nine? Then cover the T with the Jack on the third round so West wins with the queen? All to keep East off lead. Because otherwise, East wins on the third round and shoots another diamond through South.

The narrative also attributed South's difficulty to "good play" by the defenders. It's true that East played well, but it seems to me to be only "ordinarily" well.

My understanding is that the issue in the club distribution. For instance, if East has KQx of clubs instead of KT5, he has a forced win of a club, and the chance to take the minor finesse diamonds. Ditto if clubs split 4-2, and East has KQ. If clubs split 2-4, South can win only if West has KQ or KT so East doesn't get the lead.

Is my understanding correct?

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Please put some effort into formatting the hand in future questions like these. It was quite hard to understand earlier. –  Aryabhata Nov 4 '13 at 17:37
    
The defense by east is not ordinary. It is extraordinary! especially if made at the table. –  Aryabhata Nov 4 '13 at 17:40
    
@Aryabhata: I did put "some effort" into formatting the question, copying your template from a previous question. Just "failed" but certainly tried. And did not realize that East's defense was extraordinary. I guess I would have returned the 5 of clubs myself. But maybe East counted tricks and was hoping to strike a K or Q of diamonds. If West had the K instead of the Q, maybe the defense would have succeeded. –  Tom Au Nov 4 '13 at 21:47
    
@Aryabhata: I was taught to overtake (e.g. with the queen as East) if I have the majority of the defense's points, nine in this case. Was I taught right? –  Tom Au Nov 4 '13 at 21:53
1  
I think you were taught wrong. If you have the majority, you should strive to keep partner on lead, to trap declarer's card which are in between the defenders hands. Leading from the strong hand is usually bad. In any case, the right answer is, "it depends on the hand". As to formatting, trying using the code block formatting. –  Aryabhata Nov 4 '13 at 22:45
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1 Answer 1

No; swap the club 5 and 6 and South still makes the hand. Deal it out with a deck of cards and see.

If West wins the second club and returns a diamond the diamond loser has been eliminated; if West returns a club the 4th club is now set up for the diamond pitch; if West returns a trump or heart Declarer wins and leads out the 3rd round of clubs, wins the diamond return by East and goes to board with 3rd round of trumps to pitch the losing diamond.

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@TomAu: What exactly is the error you think was made in the column? I thought it was this: "Doesn't South need to cover East's five of clubs with the six so that West wins with the nine?" –  Pieter Geerkens Nov 3 '13 at 20:33
    
OK, I think I see it. (I added the part in brackets.)"South took the ace, led a trump to dummy, and returned a second club, five Jack, Queen. He ruffed the next heart, lost another club, [from hand, captured East's diamond lead with the ace], and got to dummy with a trump to pitch his Jack of diamonds on the good club." The problem was that I thought he would have to return to dummy for the third club lead, but he didn't, saving his entry. But I was thinking in terms of avoidance play, lose all club tricks to West,more urgent if West has a major tenace in diamonds, e.g. KJ over South's Qx. –  Tom Au Nov 3 '13 at 23:13
    
But would South still make the hand if East had KQ5, or even KQ, meaning that East can win the second club, lead a diamond, and force out South's second high honor before South can clear the club suit? To me, the critical issue is the lie of the East-West clubs (which the column glossed over), not the (admittedly, but ordinarily) good play of East –  Tom Au Nov 4 '13 at 0:53
3  
@TomAu: You have missed the entire point of the column - Don't worry about card lies that always defeat the hand; just play to manage card lies that need not defeat the hand. –  Pieter Geerkens Nov 4 '13 at 1:28
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