Christmas has a dulling effect on the bridge mind, especially when it comes to assessing losers. The situation is not helped by family bridge often proving the most stressful form of the game …

Dealer: North Love All
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South was not impressed by the dummy but, aware that he was under scrutiny, he was determined not to do anything silly. To that end, he laid down the ace and king of trumps, dismayed that Q♥ did not fall. He then cross-ruffed spades and clubs enthusiastically, but emerged with only nine tricks.

Ruffing clubs in hand will not produce any extra tricks, but certainly has its uses as a means of returning to hand. The key play will be to ensure that all three low spades in South’s hand are ruffed with dummy’s trumps. This must be done before drawing trumps. South can win West’s K♠ lead and immediately trump a low spade on the table. Returning to hand with A♣, a second low spade can be ruffed then, if he wishes, a club can be trumped in hand, in order to lead his last spade, to be trumped with J♥. In this way, East can only over-ruff with Q♥ — a card declarer is worried about losing anyway. Here, East cannot over-ruff, West scores his Q♥ and E/W make two diamond tricks, but the contract — and family harmony — is assured.

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