THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
BEFORE JUMPING, PREPARE THE LANDING
Look before you leap is a well-known adage. There is a bridge equivalent, which is highlighted by today’s deal. South is in four spades. West leads off with the top three clubs. How should South continue after ruffing the third?
Note North’s raise to two spades. This risked putting his side into a 4-3 fit, but to rebid one no-trump with no minor-suit stopper would have been worse. Support with support, especially in the majors. And if South had enough to move higher and only four spades, he would have rebid something other than four spades (perhaps three no-trump). South’s jump to four spades promised at least a five-card suit.
South will fail only if he loses one trick in each major. The textbooks will tell you that the percentage play in spades is to cash the ace and king. If declarer does that here, though, he will go down, losing one spade, one heart and two clubs.
Instead, South should take the whole deal into account and do a little preparation, so that if he does misguess spades, he will still make the contract regardless of the heart position.
Before touching trumps, South should play off his two diamond winners. Then he should cash his spade king and lead a spade to dummy’s nine. Here the finesse wins and the contract is home. But note that if East could win the seventh trick with the spade queen, he would be endplayed. If he leads a heart, declarer cannot lose a trick in that suit. Or if East returns a minor-suit card, South sluffs a heart from his hand and ruffs on the board.