THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
THE CONTRACT’S FATE IS ALL IN THE TIMING
Warren Spahn, a Hall of Fame pitcher who in 1957 won the World Series and Cy Young award playing for the Milwaukee Braves, said, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”
What a simple way to sum up baseball. In bridge, timing can also be vital. In today’s deal, how should South time the play to make four hearts after West leads the spade queen? Let’s assume that declarer ducks (loses) the first trick and takes the second with dummy’s ace.
That South hand is worth more than 18 points because of all those aces and kings.
South needs to assume that the trumps are breaking 3-2; otherwise, the contract has no chance. But even then, declarer still has four potential losers: one spade, one heart and two diamonds. The major-suit losers are unavoidable. If the missing diamonds are 3-3, there won’t be a problem. If, though, they are the more likely 4-2, declarer will have to ruff a diamond in the dummy.
Suppose South cashes his top trumps, then plays three rounds of diamonds. West wins the third diamond, cashes his heart jack, and takes the diamond queen for down one.
If instead South immediately plays three rounds of diamonds, West wins and plays a fourth diamond, which promotes a second trump trick for the defense.
The correct timing is not obvious. South must duck the first round of diamonds. Probably East will win and play another spade. South ruffs, draws two rounds of trumps, then reverts to diamonds. Even if a defender could ruff a high diamond, the contract would still be safe.