THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
HOW DO YOU PLAY THE TRUMP SUIT?
Don Marquis, a writer and humorist who died in 1937, said, “A pessimist is a person who has had to listen to too many optimists.”
At the bridge table, a pessimist will sometimes come out ahead of an optimist.
In today’s deal, South is in four spades. West cashes his three top clubs, then shifts to, say, a heart to South’s ace. How would the approaches vary between an optimist and a pessimist?
The auction was straightforward. North had a maximum in high-card terms for a single raise and held four trumps, but he had the worst possible distribution and one of his red-suit queens rated to be worthless.
With no losers in the red suits, declarer just has to draw trumps safely. The optimist, expecting the suit to break 2-2 or 3-1, would immediately play a spade to dummy’s queen … and go down one.
The pessimist wonders what to do about a 4-0 split, which will happen 10 percent of the time. He will realize that if East has all four spades, the contract has no chance. But if West holds four of them, they can be picked up as long as declarer keeps dummy’s king and queen hovering over West’s jack and 10.
So South cashes his spade ace at trick five. When East discards a club (always throw black on black if you can afford to do so), declarer continues with a low spade, capturing West’s card as cheaply as possible. Then, if necessary, South returns to his hand with a heart or diamond and leads another spade, picking up West’s trumps without further loss.