THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
ASK YOURSELF: WHAT MIGHT GO WRONG HERE?
Elizabeth Gaskell, a 19th-century English novelist and short-story writer, said, “How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!”
At the bridge table, how easy it usually is to see the winning line after going down from playing wrongly.
This deal is a good example of that. West leads the club queen against four spades. How should South proceed?
A less experienced player follows “rules” and has trouble spotting when they are not appropriate. Here, declarer would see nine trumps and think “nine never” — do not finesse for the queen; instead, play for the drop. But when the queen does not appear and he turns to diamonds, East ruffs the third round and shifts to the heart queen, giving the defenders one spade and three hearts.
Let’s analyze this deal without using rules. If spades are 4-0, especially if West has them all, South is in difficulty. But if the trump split is more favorable, he is sitting prettier. Outside spades, declarer has six winners: four diamonds and two clubs. So he needs only four spade tricks, not five. Next, he can lose four tricks only if East gets on play and leads a high heart through South’s king, with West having the ace. Then declarer could lose one spade and three hearts.
It is time for an avoidance play. After winning the first trick, declarer should play a spade to dummy’s ace and follow with a spade to his jack. Here, that brings home an overtrick. But even if the finesse were to lose, the heart king and the contract would be safe with West on lead.