THE deal comes from a Lifemasters Pairs, played in New York City. West leads the ace of diamonds and switches to the two of clubs. How would you play the contract? Suppose you win and simply lead a trump from your hand. West will win with the king and cross to partner’s ace of hearts to receive a club ruff. You will lose two top trumps, two red aces and a ruff, going one down. To make the contract, you must aim to break the communications between the two defenders. The declarer, Jay Apfelbaum of Philadelphia, won the club switch in dummy and led the queen of diamonds. East followed with a low diamond, as expected, and declarer discarded his singleton heart. Do you see the point of this? By swapping a heart loser for a second diamond loser, declarer cut the link to the East hand and thereby prevented the defenders from scoring a ruff. The play is known as a Scissors Coup, a name conceived by the late, great Terence Reese because it cuts the defenders’ communications. Declarer duly lost two trump tricks and two diamond tricks to make the contract. Does anything else occur to you? West could have beaten the contract by leading his singleton club at Trick 1. With no Scissors Coup set up, declarer would have had no counter.

What will you say now on these West cards?

You should respond 3NT. There is an excellent chance that you can score seven tricks in the heart suit. The lead of a spade or a diamond will give you an easy ninth trick. Even if you are not given an extra trick on the lead, prospects will be good for scoring one of your kings. In 4H, you might find that you had only nine tricks.

Awards: 3NT — 10, 4H — 7, Pass — 3.

David Bird — Knight Features