THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
WHICH USEFUL CARD DOES PARTNER HOLD?
Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”
At the bridge table, though, sometimes you must decide between setting your sights high or low. How does that apply to this deal? South is in three no-trump and West leads a fourth-highest spade six. What happens after that?
South starts with seven top tricks: one spade (given the first trick), three hearts, two diamonds and one club. He hopes that the club finesse is working. But even if it loses, West might not find the right defense.
South takes East’s spade jack with his king, leads a heart to dummy’s king, and runs the club 10. It loses, but West is now in a quandary. Who has the spade queen? East would have played the jack at trick one with either only the jack or the queen-jack. And South would have won with his king, whether or not he also had the queen.
If South still has the spade queen and another spade, West needs to shift to a diamond in the hope that his partner can win with the ace and return a spade through South. But if East has the spade queen, that suit can be run now. Should West play his partner for a queen or an ace?
Do not be greedy; set your sights low. West should cash the spade ace. Perhaps South started with king-queen-doubleton. Here, though, East should throw (unblock) his queen under partner’s ace. By applying the Rule of Eleven at trick one (11 – 6 = 5), East should know that South started with only one spade higher than the six, the king he has already played.