FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

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THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
GET IN THEIR WAY TO GET HOME SAFELY

John Stuart Mill, a 19th-century British philosopher and economist, said, “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
At the bridge table, though, it is your job to impede your opponents’ efforts to obtain your downfall. In this deal, how should South thwart the defense’s efforts to defeat three no-trump after West leads his fourth-highest diamond?
There is a strong case for North’s raising one no-trump to three no-trump, eschewing Stayman. He has a high honor in his doubleton and extra high-card strength. Even if North uncovers a 4-4 spade fit, game in that strain might fail due to, for example, a bad trump split, when there are nine winners in no-trump.
South starts with eight top tricks: three hearts, one diamond and four clubs. The ninth winner will come from spades. But playing on that suit will give the lead back to the defenders and maybe they can run the diamond suit.
The Rule of Seven recommends holding up the diamond ace for one round and taking the second trick. Here, though, that is fatal. West gets in with his spade ace and cashes three diamond tricks.
If the diamonds are 4-3, South is always safe. But if they are 5-2, what is the layout?
Surely East has honor-doubleton because West would have led the king from K-Q-J-x-x.
South should win the first trick with dummy’s diamond ace to block the suit.

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