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Dangerous defenders

“Avoidance” is the technique of preventing a dangerous defender from gaining the lead. By “dangerous,” I mean that a defender has winners to cash or can lead through a holding that declarer must protect.

Today’s West leads the ten of spades against 3NT, and East puts up the queen since West may have held K-10-9-8-x. Declarer takes his king and believes West has the ace. If East gets in, a spade return through the J-5 may beat the contract.

So South must develop nine tricks while keeping East from winning a trick. A club finesse, which might lose to East, is unattractive, but South can look to the hearts. He leads a diamond to dummy at Trick Two and returns a heart to his ten.

If the finesse won, South would have a spade, three hearts, four diamonds and a club. When West’s queen wins, South still has nine winners, and his jack of spades is safe from attack.

The problem would be harder at matchpoints. At IMPs or Chicago scoring, South should assure the contract.

You hold: ´ 7 4 ™ K J 5 3 © K Q 6 ® A 10 6 2. You open one club, your partner responds one spade, you bid 1NT and he tries two hearts. The opponents pass. What do you say?

A: Partner’s two hearts is not forcing or especially encouraging. He may have a weak hand with five spades and four hearts. Pass. You could scrape up a raise to three hearts with an ideal hand such as K 4, K 9 5 3, A 3 2, A 10 6 2, but your actual hand is average for your bidding.

South dealer

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

´ 7 4

™ K J 5 3

© K Q 6

® A 10 6 2

WEST EAST

´ A 10 9 8 3 ´ Q 6 2

™ Q 8 6 ™ 9 7 4 2

© 8 3 © 10 9 7 4

® C 7 5 4 ® K 8

SOUTH

´ K J 5

™ A 10

© A J 5 2

® Q J 9 3

South West North East

1NT Pass 2® Pass

2© Pass 3NT All Pass

Opening lead – ´10