THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
IS THAT ONE STOPPER OR TWO IN SPADES?
Albert Einstein said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
You are in a no-trump contract and the opponents lead a suit in which you have only one top-trick stopper. (This is usually the ace, but might be the king if third hand takes the first trick with the ace.) How long do you hold up that stopper?
In this example deal, South is in three no-trump. What should he do after West leads his fourth-highest spade and East puts up the queen?
Declarer has seven top tricks: one spade, one heart, four diamonds and one club. The other two winners will come from clubs, but if that finesse loses, the defenders might take five black-suit tricks first.
How long should declarer hold up his spade ace? To answer that question, typically he applies the Rule of Seven. He adds together the number of cards in the suit led that are in the dummy and his hand. He subtracts the total from seven and holds up for that number of rounds.
Here, six from seven is one. So South ducks the first trick, takes the second trick with his spade ace, and runs the club 10. It loses, but the contract is safe.
Note two things. First, if East has a third spade, the suit would be breaking 4-3 and declarer would lose only three spades and one club. Second, if South ducks two rounds of spades, West ought to shift to the heart king. Then the defenders will take two spades, two hearts and one club.