STEPPING STONE

By Elena Maitova

 

         

 

                         S  K 9 7 4 3

Love All                 H  Q

Dealer West              D  J 9 8 6 4 3

                         C  K

       S  A J T 6 2                      S  5

       H  A J 7 4 2                      H  K 9 3

       D  K                              D  Q 7

       C  6 3                            C  A Q T 9 8 7 4

                         S  Q 8

                         H  T 8 6 5

                         D  A T 5 2

                         C  J 5 2

 

                 Ponomareva         Maitova

                   1S                 2C

                   2H                 3C (NF)

                   3H                 4H

                   Pass

 

Holding good spades over the opening bid, North decided to lead her bare queen of trumps. Tanya Ponomareva of Russia won with the king and immediately led a diamond, South winning and returning the H6. The best defense would have been to return a diamond, getting rid of the entry to dummy's clubs, but South was willing to sacrifice her trump trick by leading the suit.

Tanya put up the ace in case the opening lead was from HQT and led a club to the king and ace. She continued with the CQ and ruffed a club to establish the suit. Ace and a spade ruff put her on the table.

South was known to have four hearts, three clubs, two or three spades and the rest diamonds. Tanya led a club and South had to ruff. However, Tanya overruffed and exited with her last trump, endplaying South. Had South held the SK she could have cashed it before leading a diamond to dummy, but as it was she had to concede the rest and Tanya had 11 tricks; +450.

 

At the other table, the contract was the same, but Natalya Karetnikova led a diamond. Svetlana Zenkevitch won the ace and returned a diamond, breaking up the "stepping stone" position. Declarer misguessed by discarding a club and playing a spade to the 10 and king.

Natalya now found the best defense of leading the CK, breaking the communications and leaving declarer helpless. She tried to cash CQ but Natalya ruffed. Later the defense got another trump trick for one off.

 

The interesting and winning line of play at table one is to let the HQ hold the first trick. After winning the heart continuation, declarer must lead a club and let the CK hold also! Two bare honors win tricks but afterwards declarer is

home or, as we say in Russia, feels as if she's "in the warm place."