Elimination Play I by Frank Groome

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There are two main methods of extracting an extra trick in a borderline contract.

Elimination Play o Eliminacion
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Source: Elimination Play

There are two main methods of extracting an extra trick in a borderline contract. These are the known as ‘elimination play’ and ‘squeezes’. Both techniques require the ability to plan ahead and plot your way through the minefield of the difficult contract. Whenever you are short of just one trick it is usually possible to make your contract, unless the defenders are able to cash enough tricks to set you from the outset. Success demands the ability to appreciate in advance the problem(s) posed by a particular hand and it is simply not good enough to play out the cards and hope for the best. If you do this you will be defeated as often as you make your contract and such a negative approach is very wearing on partnership confidence.  The most common method employed to gain an additional trick is elimination play. Usually the technique requires the declarer to ‘eliminate’ dangerous side suits, before exiting to one or the other defenders to force them into making an awkward return. This hand arose in a recent Teams match.
 
Example 1

A 10 7 6 2
A 10 4
A K 3
7 6
  K Q 9 8 4
K 9 3
Q 7 2
A 4
     
West North East South
    1 Pass
3* Pass 4** Pass
4** Pass 4 Pass
6 The End    

 *A ‘jump-shift’ agreeing s and promising 15+ HCP.
**Cue-bids, showing first-round control.

South led the K. The immediate reaction is that the contract is doomed, since declarer must lose a and, because of the duplicated shape of the two hands, he has no long card on which to park a losing . There is one good chance, however. If the missing  honours are divided, then it is possible to force one or the other defender into the awkward position of either having to lead away from their honour or concede a crucial ruff and discard. Because of the valuable pips in the suit you will be able to finesse each of your opponents in turn, provided an opponent first leads the suit. Therefore you must draw all the outstanding trumps and cash three rounds of s, eliminating the danger of either opponent being able to make a safe return in these suits. Now you can simply exit with a  and whoever wins the trick is end-played, assuming the honours are divided. If not, you cannot make the contract anyway, since whoever holds the two honours will be sure to duck the second .

   3
 J 8 7 2
 10 9 4
 J 9 8 5 2
 
A 10 7 6 2
A 10 4
A K 3
7 6
  K Q 9 8 4
K 9 3
Q 7 2
A4
  J 5
Q 6 5
J 9 6 5
K Q 10 3
 

Note that the best chance for the defence is for whoever wins the second trick to exit with their honour! This might seem to be an odd play, but at least you will have awakened the suspicion in declarer’s mind that the honours are held in the same hand and there is now a chance that he will guess wrong.  The opening lead is frequently the determining factor in the decision to attempt the elimination play.

Example 2

J 4
A K 7
9 7 6 4
K J 8 2
  A
Q 4
A Q 8 3
A Q 10 7 6 4
     
West North East South
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 4 Pass
4* Pass 4* Pass
6 The End  

Before examining the play on this deal, note the auction. Over East’s opening 1, West bids a quiet 1. He does not make the horrible error of jumping to 2NT (showing a balanced 11-12 HCP). There is no rush to get in the first bid in no-trumps in a misguided attempt to play the hand – especially when there is good support for partner’s first-bid suit!  South led the K. The suit was the problem, of course, since if the finesse failed there was likely to be at least two losers in the suit. But a little thought should guide you to the correct line of play. After drawing trumps you can discard one of the losing s from your hand on the long . You can then make the loser-on-loser play of throwing a second on the losing J. This will endplay South, who will be forced to lead into your A Q of diamonds or concede a ruff and discard. After a while plays of this sort become fairly routine.  The only other reasonable option on this hand is to play for the K
doubleton or J 10 doubleton. The full deal shows that playing for a doubleton K would have worked, but the difference between the two options is that playing for the doubleton is not guaranteed whereas the elimination play was marked by the opening lead.

  10 9 8 5 3
10 9 5 3 2
J 10 5
– – – – –
 
 
J 4
A K 7
9 7 6 4
K J 8 2
  A
Q 4
A Q 8 3
A Q 10 7 6 4
  K Q 7 6 2
 J 8 6
K 2
9 5 3
 

Without the lead of the K, the best line is to win the lead in hand and draw trumps in three rounds. Then cash the A and three rounds of s, discarding a on the third round. Finally lead the J from dummy, discarding a second if North plays low. If North covers the J you should ruff in hand and lay down the A. If you are very lucky the K will fall. If not, cross to the dummy and lead a low towards your hand. North may go up with the K and solve your problem. If not, you must guess whether to cover or duck, playing South for the doubleton K. This line maximises your chances for locating the K, without having to make an awkward decision.  As often as not, the probability that an elimination play is likely to succeed becomes apparent because of information revealed during the course of the auction.

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