To cover or not to cover

Cecil Whig - - & & - By Phillip Alder

As you know, there are sev­eral apho­risms about bridge. For ex­am­ple, “sec­ond hand low” and “third hand high,” which are right most of the time. This week, let’s look at “cover an honor with an honor.”

To­day’s deal is a text­book ex­am­ple. How does the play go in three no-trump af­ter West leads the heart queen?

South is loath to open one notrump with a low dou­ble­ton, but the bid de­scribes his hand type and strength so ac­cu­rately.

De­clarer starts with seven top tricks: one spade, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs. If the clubs break 3-3, that will pro­vide an eighth win­ner. Then, if the spade fi­nesse works, the con­tract will make. With the heart suit wide open, South can­not af­ford to give up a di­a­mond. So, de­clarer wins the sec­ond heart and cashes his top clubs. Now East must be care­ful, dis­card­ing a di­a­mond. Has East made an er­ror, throw­ing a di­a­mond from an ini­tial three­card hold­ing (so diamonds are now 2-2)? South takes his di­a­mond king, then plays a di­a­mond to dummy’s ace. Again luck is out to lunch -- West ac­cu­rately throws a heart.

It is time for spades. De­clarer calls for dummy’s queen. Note that if East cov­ers with the king, South wins with his ace, then leads a low spade to dummy’s nine. That fi­nesse works too, and de­clarer makes his con­tract with three spades, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs. But if East plays low, the con­tract can be de­feated. This is the rule that works most of the time: Cover not the first but the last of touch­ing hon­ors. East ducks dummy’s first spade honor, but if South con­tin­ues with the sec­ond, East cov­ers.

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