FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

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THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
THE PROBLEM MAY BE HARD TO FORESEE

Hannah More, an English play<00AD>wright, moralist and philanthropist who died in 1833, said, “Goals help you overcome short-term problems.”
At the bridge table, a deal is a short-term problem. Your goal is to make or break the contract. However, sometimes there is an ominous problem that can be hard to spot.
In today’s deal, how should South play in three no-trump? West leads his fourth-highest heart. East wins with his ace and returns the heart jack, the higher of two remaining cards.
The auction was straightforward. South’s one-no-trump rebid showed a balanced hand with 12-14 points. North knew to go for the nine-trick game, not to look for five clubs. Here, careful defense would have defeated five clubs; South would have lost two spades and one heart.
Declarer seems to have nine easy winners: one spade, one heart (given the first trick), two diamonds and five clubs. But if South wins the second trick and goes after the clubs, he will, sooner or later, notice a problem. Since East has jack-third, declarer will have to win the fourth round of clubs in the dummy. He will have no way to reach his winning club six.
It is difficult to anticipate the potential blockage in the club suit. But once it is spotted, how can South get around it?
The solution is not to win the second heart trick. Then, when East leads his last heart, declarer takes the trick with his king and discards a club from the dummy. Alternatively (but not recommended), South could take the second trick and lead his third heart, throwing a club from the board.

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