August 4th, 2005

Weekly bridge column


			          SCISSORS COUP

			       by Stephen Rzewski

	vul:  both
        matchpoints
				     North

	                            ♠ Q9
                                    ♥ J62
                                    ♦ AQJ72
                                    ♣ QJ5

                    West                           East

                   ♠ AK2                          ♠ 54
                   ♥ A753                         ♥ KQ1084
                   ♦ 84                           ♦ 1096
                   ♣ 9843                         ♣ K107

                                     South

                                    ♠ J108763
                                    ♥ 9
                                    ♦ K53
                                    ♣ A62

	          bidding:    N       E       S       W

                              1♦      1♥      1♠       2♦
                              P       2♥      2♠       3♥
                              3♠      P       P        P

	                       opening lead:  ♦ 8

	Today’s hand was played in a Flight A event at a Regional tournament in 
Albany many years ago. The bidding is typical of the tight competitive auctions at 
matchpoints, as each side bid to their par spot.  West’s 2♦ cue-bid was intended to 
show a good, invitational raise of hearts, in case his partner had overcalled with a 
better hand.    

	On the surface, it looks as though South ought to be able to take ten tricks,
but the defense against 4♠ would be fairly routine.  Suppose West led his ace of 
hearts.  On seeing the dummy, the defense need only attack clubs and develop a slow `
trick in that suit before declarer can knock out the trumps and enjoy the diamonds.

	West found the only lead to give the defense a chance to defeat 3♠.  With two 
stops in the trump suit, he decided to go for a diamond ruff.  Here is how one might 
project the defense:  declarer wins the diamond lead, plays a trump, West winning. 
Then would come a second diamond by West, followed by another trump play.  West would 
win again, then underlead his ace of hearts to get to his partner (West was the 
caliber of player who was quite capable of doing this), who would play a third 
diamond, giving West his ruff.  West would then simply exit with a heart, and South,
out of diamonds himself and having no direct link to dummy, would have to play clubs 
out of his hand and concede the king to East. Result:  down one.

	So what could declarer do to avoid this disaster?  The answer is remarkably 
simple; one has only to think of it.  At trick #2, instead of playing on trumps, 
South led a heart!  East won and played a second diamond, but declarer won and was 
now in control.  On the first trump lead, West won, and try as he may, he had no way
to reach his partner’s hand, since the early heart play had cut the only link between 
the defenders (thereby known as a “Scissors Coup”).  He first tried a club:  queen, 
king and ace.  In again with a high spade, he underled his ace of hearts in the thin 
hope that the overcall was based on a 4-card suit.  South ruffed, drew the last 
trump, and was able to discard his club loser on dummy’s diamonds.  Making four, for 
+170, a good matchpoint score on this hand.

	Once South makes the play of a heart at trick #2, the best East-West can do 
is to then give up on diamonds and attack clubs to set up the slow winner there, but 
declarer will always make his contract.