THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
ONE COMBINATION, BUT FOUR SUITS
W. Somerset Maugham said, “It’s asking a great deal that things should appeal to your reason as well as to your sense of the aesthetic.”
Bridge deals are sometimes aesthetic, but the right answer to all of them can usually be found by applying reason. In today’s deal, what is the reasonable approach for South in four hearts after West leads the club queen?
North used a transfer bid followed by a jump to three no-trump to show the values for game with exactly five hearts and, probably, a balanced hand. Here, South would have done best to pass, but it is hard to quibble with opting for the eight-card major-suit fit. (Note that the transfer did its job. Four hearts by North goes down if East leads the spade queen.)
Taken in isolation, declarer would finesse in hearts. But here a heart finesse ought to be fatal. East would win with his queen and should shift to the spade queen.
Not wanting a spade lead through his king, declarer should try to keep East off the lead. South wins the first trick and cashes dummy’s two top hearts. When the queen does not drop, he turns to the diamonds. Yes, East ruffs the fourth round, but declarer has discarded one of dummy’s spades, so loses only one heart and two spades.
Note that if West has queen-third of hearts, South’s play costs only an overtrick. And if East can ruff the second or third diamond, declarer is still all right when East either does not switch to spades or holds the spade ace.
Always take the full deal into account.