THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
IF ONE LOOKS CLEAR, IS THERE A SECOND?
J.M. Barrie, a Scottish author and dramatist who created Peter Pan, said, “I have always found that the man whose second thoughts are good is worth watching.”
A hard contract to play correctly has an obvious-looking line that doesn’t work, and an alternative approach that can also be tried — which actually does succeed. This deal, as if you could not guess, is an example. South is in three no-trump. West leads the spade queen. What should declarer do?
That South hand, with all of those aces and kings and the five-card suit, is easily worth at least 24 points. North used Stayman, then signed off in three no-trump when South denied a four-card major. Yes, five diamonds would have made, but do not go past three no-trump unless you are either sure that game cannot make or contemplating a slam in your minor.
South starts with eight top tricks: two spades, two hearts, three diamonds and one club. And many players, taking one look at that gorgeous diamond suit in the dummy, would win the first trick, cash the diamond ace, play another diamond … and go down one.
Is there a way to win nine tricks even if diamonds do not break 3-2? Yes, the hearts might be 3-3. South, after taking the first trick, should lead his low heart (or cash his top hearts and, when both opponents follow suit, play a third round).
The defenders take the heart trick and lead another spade, but South wins, cashes his top hearts and the diamond ace, plays another diamond, and here claims nine tricks.