Graceful Exit

Dlr:
North
Vul:
N-S
North
♠ Q 8 3 2
4 3 2
J 7 6
♣ A K 2
South
♠ A 10 9 7 6 4
A Q 5
Q
♣ Q 8 3
West North East South
Pass 3 3♠
Pass 4♠ Pass Pass
Dbl All Pass

Patrick Huang of Taiwan is one of the strongest players in the Far East, if not the world. Huang found a clever line of play on this deal to bring home his doubled contract:

Huang, South, received the opening lead of the J, an obvious singleton. After winning the Q, he cashed the ♠A and confirmed the expected 3-0 trump break.

It does no good at this point to play another trump toward dummy’s queen since West will win the trump king and underlead his A to East’s king to get a heart ruff, destroying declarer’s A in the process. The underlead will be a rather easy play to make at that point since East will have had two chances to signal for diamonds.

Huang found the winning line easily, however. He carefully played three rounds of clubs ending in his hand and then played a low spade. Why does playing clubs first matter? Consider what happens. West hops up with the ♠K and crosses to partner’s K. East returns the 10, covered by declarer’s ace, and West ruffs. But now what? This is the position:

Dlr:
Vul:
North
♠ Q 8
4
J 7
♣ —
West
♠ —
A 10 5
♣ J 10
East
♠ —
9 8 7
9 8
♣ —
South
♠ 10 9 7 6
5
♣ —

West must exit with a minor suit. A club allows a ruff and a sluff, permitting declarer to avoid a heart loser, while a diamond exit is no good either. Why? From the auction, Huang knows that West has the A so he can’t be fooled if West tries to get out with the 10; he will rise with the J and dump a heart from his hand. If West tries the A instead, Huang will ruff in his hand, cross to dummy with a trump and again discard a heart on the J. Making four doubled.

The full deal:

Dlr:
Vul:
North
♠ Q 8 3 2
4 3 2
J 7 6
♣ A K 2
West
♠ K J 5
J
A 10 5 4
♣ J 10 9 7 5
East
♠ —
K 10 9 8 7 6
K 9 8 3 2
♣ 6 4
South
♠ A 10 9 7 6 4
A Q 5
Q
♣ Q 8 3