THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
WHICH WAY TO TURN TO GET NINE?
Bob Uecker, who was given the nickname Mr. Baseball by Johnny Carson, said, “When I came up to bat with three men on and two outs in the ninth, I looked in the other team’s dugout and they were already in street clothes.”
In today’s deal, South must find a ninth trick in three no-trump. If he makes the wrong play, he will strike out. What should he do after West leads the diamond queen?
North hoped to find a 4-4 major-suit fit, but when it didn’t happen, he jumped to three no-trump.
South starts with eight top tricks: one spade, two diamonds and five clubs. He has two 50-50 shots for his ninth trick: West might have the spade king, or East might hold the heart ace. Which should he try?
The odds are equal, but declarer should play a heart to his king first. Why?
First, suppose the worst happens: West takes the king with his ace and returns a heart, the defenders taking four tricks in the suit. South still has the spade finesse on the back burner.
Second, an expert sitting West with, say, ace-third, might duck, thinking that declarer has K-Q-10 and wanting to give him a guess on the second round of the suit.
If declarer tries the spade finesse first, he should fail with this layout. East will win with his king and return a diamond. When South plays a heart from the board, East grabs the trick and leads another diamond, giving the defenders one spade, one heart and three diamonds.