THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder

Orison Swett Marden was an author in the New Thought Movement and a successful hotel owner who also had a degree in medicine. He said, “Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”
Not so at the bridge table! Success is measured by your score, and the worse the opposition, the better your score rates to be. However, sometimes you must decide what to do, and often then your play will be governed by the odds.
In this example, South is in four spades. West leads the heart king and East drops the jack. What should South do?
North had a minimum hand for raising spades. South’s jump to four spades was a slight overbid, but we all yearn to try for the vulnerable game bonus.
Assuming a 3-2 spade break, South can see four losers in his hand: one spade, two hearts and one diamond. He does not have the dummy entries to establish clubs, so must ruff a heart on the board.
How many hearts did East begin with?
If one, South must take the first trick. But if East started with a doubleton, South must duck at trick one. Which is preferable?
Let’s look at the a priori odds. West will have six hearts 8.57 percent of the time and seven hearts only 1.43 percent of the time.
So, South should duck the first trick, take the second, cash his two top trumps, then ruff his last heart on the board.

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