2016-08-31 / Entertainment

Another weird play that is necessary

By Phillip Alder

Hunter S. Thompson, who founded the gonzo journalism movement, said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

At the bridge table, if a weird play is needed, one might think that a pro is most likely to spot it. However, that does not mean a less-skillful player will miss it. Making three no-trump in this deal does require a strange-looking play, but anyone who has met this guideline before should clear the hurdle.

After West leads his fourth-highest heart, and East puts up the jack, what should declarer do?

Declarer starts with seven top tricks: two spades, two hearts (given trick one) and three diamonds. Obviously, he will attack clubs for the extra winners, and if West has that queen, overtricks are going to roll in. But if East has the club queen and West the ace, the contract is in some jeopardy.

Suppose South takes the first trick and runs the club 10. East wins with his queen and returns his remaining heart, which establishes West’s suit while he, West, has the club ace as an entry.

As declarer might lose the lead twice before being able to run for home, the critical play is to duck at trick one – let East take the trick. East will lead his second heart, but South can win that trick and attack clubs. Then, when East is in with his queen, he will not have another heart to lead; or, if he does, the suit is splitting 4-3, and declarer will lose only two hearts and two clubs.

With two stoppers in the suit led and two high cards to dislodge, it is almost always right to duck the first trick.

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