Lower than the two

In one Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown – on a particularly bad day – complains: “I feel lower than the two of clubs.”  Sometimes, however, the two is not a bad card to hold.

Put yourself in the place of Bronwyn Swaddling, sitting South as declarer in a notrump slam on the following deal, on a diamond lead. Cover the East-West cards and work out your line of play:

          NORTH
          S AK2
          H A
          D T5
          C AKQJ962
WEST                EAST
S Q93               S T875
H T9732             H J865
D K864              D QJ9
C 7                 C T8
          SOUTH
          S J64
          H KQ4
          D A732
          C 543

Bronwyn counted thirteen top tricks: two spades, three hearts, a diamond and seven clubs. The only problem is that the heart suit is blocked, and the diamond lead has knocked out the DA, the only obvious entry to the South hand.

Bronwyn saw where there should be another entry to South. After unblocking the HA, she cashed two top clubs, relieved to see that the suit divided 2-1. Given that South’s clubs were the 5-4-3, it was fortunate that North had the C2 to play on the third round of the suit to get to the South hand to cash the otherwise-stranded heart honours.

On the next deal, Karen Smith was declarer in 3NT. There were ten top tricks on this one – if West had been kind enough to lead partner’s bid suit, clubs. Instead the S10 was led:

          NORTH
          S 62
          H KT7
          D AKJ98
          C 643
WEST                EAST
S T987543           S AKJ
H QJ632             H A4
D —                 D T763
C 2                 C T975
          SOUTH
          S Q
          H 985
          D Q542
          C AKQJ8

East won the spade lead, with the SQ falling, and would have happily exchanged the SJ for the S2. Any declarer who accepted that trade would be making the worst swap since Aladdin’s dusty old lamp was swapped for a shiny new one. If East had a small spade to get to partner’s hand, the defenders could have cashed nine tricks, but instead East cashed the three spade winners then exited a club, allowing declarer to wrap up ten tricks.

Adding salt to East’s wounds, West commented: “Mmm… we can make 6S!”

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