Keep those points firmly in mind

The Hamilton Spectator - - Fun & Games - by Phillip Alder

Vir­ginia Woolf wrote, “On the out­skirts of ev­ery agony sits some ob­ser­vant fel­low who points.”

Just in case you thought track­ing high­card points is no longer an ag­o­niz­ing ne­ces­sity, take a look at this deal. What hap­pens in three no-trump af­ter West leads a top-of-noth­ing spade nine?

North might have raised im­me­di­ately to three no-trump be­cause he had a bol­ster in his dou­ble­ton.

But if a 4-4 heart fit ex­isted, game in that strain could well have been prefer­able to three no-trump.

South starts with eight top tricks: three spades, four di­a­monds and one club. He will pre­sum­ably run the club queen at trick two.

Then the spot­light is on East. He must count up the points. He has 8, dummy holds 12, and de­clarer has promised 15-17. So, West has 3-5. What one use­ful card might he hold?

The di­a­mond ace is in­ef­fec­tive. How­ever, the heart ace would be ideal. East should take the sec­ond trick and shift to the heart two. Here, ev­ery­thing is for the best in the best of all pos­si­ble worlds. West takes that trick and re­turns a heart to give the de­fend­ers one club and four hearts.

Did you no­tice that de­clarer has an in­ter­est­ing play avail­able, al­though not with­out some risk? Sup­pose, at trick two, that he leads a heart! To de­feat the con­tract then, ei­ther West must put up his ace and lead his sec­ond heart (which would be al­most im­pos­si­ble to find), or if East wins the trick, he must re­turn the heart two (which is also tough).

Some­times, when in no-trump, lead­ing your weak­est suit can de­ceive the op­po­nents to your ben­e­fit.

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