THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
HOW TO HANDLE A WEAK TRUMP SUIT
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, a 16th-century French essayist and courtier, said, “He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.”
That applies to some stage productions. If a playwright needs the actors to shout for effect, it is usually not well-written.
A bridge player needs to be careful when his trump suit is weak. He must try to maintain command of the play. This deal highlights one common technique. West leads the diamond jack against four hearts. How should South continue after he takes the first trick with his queen?
South opens one no-trump, 15-17 points in the modern style. North, upgrading because he has two aces (which are worth nearer nine points than eight), uses Stayman, then invites game in hearts. South is in the middle of his range, but also upgrades because he has two aces and two kings.
If trumps are 4-1, South is probably going down. But if they are 3-2, he seems to have only three losers: two hearts and one diamond. However, now count winners. There are six outside hearts, so declarer needs to take four trump tricks: the ace and three ruffs.
With this distribution, though, if South immediately plays on clubs, East overruffs the third round and the contract fails.
The right line is to duck a round of trumps. Suppose East wins and returns a diamond. Declarer wins with his ace, plays a heart to dummy’s ace, and proceeds with the black-suit crossruff. West gets his trump winner whenever he likes.