THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
A TOUGH PLAY FOR ANYONE TO FIND
Wilson Mizner said, “Life’s a tough proposition, and the first hundred years are the hardest.”
At the bridge table, for most players the first trick is the hardest. They do not give it nearly enough thought.
Today’s deal, for example, would defeat most players — although, to be honest, many would still make the contract courtesy of a misdefense by East. South is in three no-trump. West leads his fourth-highest spade and East puts up the nine. What should happen?
I agree with North’s not using Stayman with 4-3-3-3 distribution and honors in every suit.
South starts with eight top tricks: two spades (given the opening lead), four diamonds and two clubs. In addition, two more tricks can be established in hearts.
It looks so easy to win the first trick and play a heart. However, East can take that trick and return his second spade. This establishes his partner’s suit, while West still has the heart king as an entry. South loses three spades and two hearts.
A better line for declarer is to cross to dummy with a diamond at trick two, then to play a heart. But if East is knowledgeable, he will take the trick and lead back his remaining spade. (Remember, if you have only one card left in partner’s suit and it is one lead from being established, do your utmost to win the next defensive trick, trying to save your partner’s entry for use once his suit is ready to run.)
So, what is the solution? South must duck the first trick. Yes, East will lead the spade six, but declarer still gets two spade tricks, and when East is in with his heart ace, he will not have a spade left. (If East had a third spade, South would lose only two spades and two hearts.)