THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
WHICH OF THREE PLAYS IS CORRECT?
Duffy Daugherty, who was the head football coach at Michigan State University from 1954 to 1972, said, “Three things can happen when you put a ball in the air — and two of them are bad.”
In this deal, East has three possible plays at trick one — and two of them are bad. South is in three no-trump. West leads the heart eight and declarer covers with dummy’s 10. Which heart should East play?
East made a two-heart weak jump overcall, promising a respectable six-card suit and 5-10 high-card points. South responded with a negative double, indicating four spades. North cue-bid three hearts to show game-forcing values and to ask South if he had a heart stopper for no-trump purposes.
South starts with eight top tricks: one heart (given the lead), four diamonds and three clubs. If clubs are 3-3, the contract is safe, but if that suit is not breaking favorably, declarer will have to score a spade trick.
If East wins the first trick with his heart ace and returns the suit, South will make his contract. Suppose instead East plays his heart queen. South will get home if — admittedly a big if — he does not take the trick.
However, East should recall that when an opponent has only one stopper in the suit he is trying to establish, give that trick to the opponent as quickly as possible. East should signal enthusiastically with his nine. Declarer wins, tries the clubs, cashes his diamonds, and turns to spades. But West grabs the trick, cashes his club jack and leads his second heart to defeat the contract.