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Bridge

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THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
ONE LINE IS GOOD; THE OTHER IS BETTER

Tim Duncan, a professional basketball player, said, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.”
Declarer will often be faced with more than one way to play a suit combination. He should, of course, try to find mathematically the best. Although, to complicate matters further, occasionally the right line will be dependent upon what he has learned from the bidding or early play (or both).
In this case, the defenders do not bid, so that may be ignored. What should South do in three no-trump after West leads his fourth-highest heart?
It was a straightforward quantitative auction.
South can see eight top tricks: two spades, two hearts (given the lead), two diamonds and two clubs. The ninth trick can surely come from clubs.
For many it would be a simple matter of taking East’s heart king with the ace, playing a club to the king, and cashing the club ace. Perhaps the queen would drop doubleton and two overtricks would appear. But even if someone had queen-third of clubs, there would still be one overtrick.
That is a good line, working about 83 percent of the time. But it fails when East or West shows up with Q-10-x-x of clubs.
Much better after a club to the king is a low club from the dummy. Here, East is held to one club trick. But even if East discards on the second round and South’s jack loses to West’s queen, declarer can play a club to dummy’s nine on the third round. Now the odds have risen to 100 percent — clearly best.

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