THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
COUNT THE WINNERS TO BEAT THE CONTRACT
Sebastian Vettel, who last November became the youngest ever Formula One Grand Prix driver to win three world championships, said, “As a driver, your target is always to be with the most competitive team possible.”
As a bridge player, your target is always the number of tricks needed to make or to break a contract. When on defense, always ask yourself where your side might take those tricks — what I call the defensive target.
In this deal, how should East defend against three no-trump after West leads the club queen?
West might have made a takeout double on the first round, which would have shown four spades and four or more clubs. His point-count was low, but if he could have found a fit with his partner, maybe his side could have done well. North was a trick too strong for his three-diamond rebid, but nothing else was better. And South went for the nine-trick game.
It is common in no-trump to return your partner’s suit. (In a trump contract, this happens much less often.) Here, though, if East wins with his club ace and leads back the club nine, how many tricks will declarer take?
Even if South is void in diamonds, he must have at least 10 winners: two hearts, seven diamonds and one club — not good.
The only chance for the defense is to cash four spade tricks immediately. East should take his club ace and shift to the spade queen. Here, East and West take the checkered flag.