THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
TAKE A MOMENT TO PLAY SAFELY
Jack Benny said, “It’s not so much knowing when to speak as when to pause.”
At the bridge table, it’s not so much knowing when to play as when to pause.
South is in four hearts. West leads the diamond eight (top of nothing). East wins with his ace and returns the diamond three. During his pause, how should South plan the play?
The auction is straightforward. North’s one-no-trump rebid shows a balanced hand with 12-14 points. (Discuss with your partner whether it does or does not deny four spades. I like to show my hand type as quickly as possible, bidding no-trump when balanced. But that requires well-defined auction continuations so that responder can check back for a possible 4-4 spade fit.) South jumps to four hearts, going for game in the known nine- or 10-card fit.
It is easy to play too quickly on this type of deal. It looks so obvious to take the second trick on the board and to start on the trumps. However, here, West wins that trick and plays another diamond, which East ruffs. Then declarer loses two hearts, one diamond and the diamond ruff.
Instead, South should anticipate the danger because, at trick two, East led the lowest extant diamond. And with two cards left in the suit, he would have returned the higher one: high-low with a remaining doubleton.
South must void himself of diamonds so that he can overruff East. The simplest way is immediately to cash dummy’s club ace and club queen to discard his diamond king. Then declarer can start to get those trumps out.