By Steve Becker
At the start of play, it is not sufficient for declarer to adopt an approach merely because it is likely to succeed. Rather, he should seek the line of play that offers the maximum chance of success.
Consider this deal from a pairs tournament. At most tables, the final contract was four spades, but about half the declarers finished down one after failing to find the approach that offered the greatest chance of yielding 10 tricks.
A club was the usual opening lead, South ruffing East’s ace on the second round. At the tables where the contract failed, declarer next cashed the A-K of diamonds and then tried to ruff his low diamond in dummy. West ruffed with the jack, and since South still had to lose a heart and a trump trick, the result was down one.
While these declarers were admittedly unlucky to find the diamonds divided 5-2 and the trumps 4-1, and even more unlucky that the player with the doubleton diamond held a singleton high trump, the fact remains that they did not give themselves the best chance to make the contract.
Since there was always the possibility — however remote — that one opponent might have been dealt fewer than three diamonds plus a singleton 9, 10 or J of trumps, it would have been more prudent for declarer to draw one round of trumps before tackling the diamonds. This would have made it impossible, assuming no worse than a 4-1 trump break, to lose a trick to a diamond ruff and also a subsequent trump trick.
Those declarers who made four spades saw that it could cost them nothing to cash a high trump at trick three before attempting to ruff a diamond, and they took this simple extra precaution. The others paid the full price for their omission.
(c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.