FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

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Bridge

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THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
DO YOU HOLD UP WITH TWO STOPPERS?

We have been looking at declarer’s plan in no-trump when he has only one stopper in the suit led at trick one. But how does his strategy change when he has two stoppers in that suit?
It depends upon the number of opposing high cards declarer has to drive out before running for home. If he will lose the lead only once, he should take the first trick, give the opponents the trick they are due, and claim. However, if he has two losers to drive out, usually it is right to duck (lose) trick one.
In this example deal, West leads the spade four against three no-trump and East puts up his jack. How should South plan the play?
South starts with only five top tricks: two spades and three diamonds. He can get three winners from clubs, so also needs a heart trick. He has to concede tricks to both rounded-suit aces. The rule recommends ducking the first trick.
Let’s assume East returns his second spade. South wins and plays on clubs. East takes his ace, but doesn’t have another spade to lead (and if he did, the suit would be 4-3).
Note that if South takes the first trick and leads a club, East wins and returns his second spade, establishing West’s suit while West still has an entry in the heart ace. Or, if South plays a high heart at trick two, West wins with his ace and East drops the jack, the top of his sequence when he cannot win the trick. Then West should lead his second heart, which would defeat the contract.
Finally, yes, if East, when given the first trick, shifts to his heart jack at trick two, South has to guess to play low, which is not clear-cut.

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