Steer your con­tract down the right road

Cecil Whig - - & & - By Phillip Alder

Joyce Cary, an English nov­el­ist who died in 1957, said, “The will is never free -- it is al­ways at­tached to an ob­ject, a pur­pose. It is sim­ply the en­gine in the car -- it can’t steer.”

When you are the de­clarer, you are steer­ing your two hands to­ward the end of the road: the num­ber of tricks needed to make the con­tract. How you steer the cards is, of course, usu­ally crit­i­cal. In to­day’s deal, South is in three no-trump. What do you think of the auc­tion? West leads a fourth-high­est spade five, East puts up the nine, and South wins with his king (top of touch­ing hon­ors from the closed hand). How should South drive from there?

The auc­tion is sen­si­ble if North­South do not use trans­fers into the mi­nors. How­ever, if they do, North should re­spond two spades, a trans­fer to clubs, and re­bid three spades to show a sin­gle­ton or void in that suit. South would pre­sum­ably park in three no-trump. Note that five clubs can be made, but it re­quires good guess­work in the trump suit. South has seven top tricks: one spade (first trick), one heart, three di­a­monds, and two clubs. As at least three more tricks can come from clubs, it seems too easy. Is there a pot­hole in the road?

From the first trick, de­clarer should re­al­ize that West holds the spade ace. So, if East gets on lead, he will re­turn a spade through South’s queen, and the con­tract will crash.

In or­der to keep East from win­ning a trick, de­clarer should play a di­a­mond to dummy, then run the club jack through East. Here, the fi­nesse wins, and de­clarer takes 11 tricks. But even if that fi­nesse lost, South’s spade queen would be safe from at­tack, and the con­tract would coast home.

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