END PLAY by Stephen Rzewski vul: none dealer: West North ♠ 1052 ♥ Q84 ♦ A95 ♣ AJ104 West East ♠ 7 ♠ K863 ♥ 963 ♥ J1072 ♦ KQJ1076 ♦ ----- ♣ Q72 ♣ K9865 South ♠ AQJ94 ♥ AK5 ♦ 8432 ♣ 3 bidding: W N E S 2♦ P P 2♠ P 3♦ P 4♠ opening lead: ♦ K Today’s hand, taken from a club game in Albany, NY, illustrates another example of a loser-on-loser play, resulting in a favorable end play which enabled declarer to bring home his contract. The bidding was routine. West’s 2♦ call is a textbook example of a pre- emptive “weak two” bid. North’s 3♦ cue-bid showed a good, invitational raise of spades, and since South’s 2♠ call could have been made on a much weaker hand in the balancing seat, he had no reluctance in bidding game. Unfortunately for South, dummy’s ace of diamonds was ruffed by East on the opening lead. Since a weak two-bid is typically made on a 6-card suit, East’s void was a virtual certainty, but it would have done no good to duck the ace in any event. East got out at trick #2 with a heart. South let the heart go to dummy’s queen in order to take the finesse in the trump suit. The 10 of spades was led, which held the trick. Declarer repeated the finesse and drew the remaining trumps, leaving the following layout: ♠ --- ♥ 84 ♦ 95 ♣ AJ104 ♠ --- ♠ --- ♥ 63 ♥ 1072 ♦ QJ10 ♦ --- ♣ Q72 ♣ K9865 ♠ 94 ♥ AK ♦ 843 ♣ 3 What can South do to avoid his three losing diamonds? The club holding in dummy might ordinarily produce an extra trick by means of a double-finesse, but South can’t make two club plays with only a singleton himself. The reader is invited at this point to find the line of play that brings in ten tricks. Declarer started by playing off the ace and king of hearts. When everyone followed suit to these two tricks, the contract was now assured, as long as East held at least one of the missing club honors. Declarer then led his singleton club, and when West followed low, he put in dummy’s 10. East won the king and played the 13th heart, expecting South to ruff so as to get off lead. But South countered neatly by discarding one of his diamond losers, letting East win this third trick for the defense. With nothing left in his hand but clubs, East was forced to lead into the jaws of dummy’s A-J. This provided South with two club tricks, as he pitched away his remaining diamonds. Notice the importance of playing off the heart winners before leading a club. Had South failed to do this, East would simply have exited with a heart, throwing the lead back to declarer. He would then have had to lead diamonds himself, coughing up all three losers to West.