THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder

Edward Elgar composed the “Enigma Variations.” There was a central theme with 14 variations, each being a musical representation of one of his close friends.
This deal is an enigmatic variation of the ones in my last two columns. In those, dummy had the J-10-5 of clubs and declarer the A-9-8-6. What difference does today’s small change to the clubs make to South’s fortunes in three no-trump after West leads the heart seven, East puts up his jack, and declarer wins with his king?
South’s hand was a textbook strong no-trump. North was justified in using Stayman to try to find a 4-4 spade fit; hearts might have been a fatal flaw in no-trump. Of course, here South showed only two or three hearts when he denied a four-card major, making that heart problem more acute; but there was nothing North could do about it.
Note South’s play of the heart king at trick one, leaving West uncertain about who holds the queen. It is almost always correct to play the top of touching honors from the closed hand.
It makes a big difference that South has only one high club in the dummy. He must vary his approach. After the spade king and a spade to the jack, he plays a low club to his jack.
If West wins and shifts to a diamond, declarer calls for the ace, runs the club nine, repeats the club finesse, and gets home. What’s the problem?
A genius sitting West does not win trick four with his club queen. Then, with this layout the contract must fail. And if you know anyone capable of that play, sign him up as your partner.

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