Two ways to turn, one way to win
By Phillip Alder
Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer Prizewinning author, said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Occasionally, I imagine, someone could do both -- spot a new idea, then publicize it.
In bridge deals, declarer would like to have two chances to make a contract and be able to try both. At other times, though, he has to take two steps to get home; if he slips at either stage, his candle will be extinguished. Today, South is in three no-trump. What happens after West leads the diamond seven?
South starts with only five top tricks: three spades, one diamond and one club. He must play on both hearts and clubs before he has nine winners. The danger, of course, is that the opponents will first take too many tricks in diamonds, hearts and clubs. What is the diamond situation? If the suit is 4-3, South needs the club finesse to work. But if they are 5-2, what does East hold? It must be honor-doubleton. West would have led the king with all three honors. So, declarer’s first step is to win trick one with dummy’s ace to block the suit. Then what?
It looks tempting to turn to hearts, but here that is fatal. East wins, cashes the diamond queen, and shifts to clubs. West gets in with his king and takes three diamond tricks -- down one.
Instead, South should take the club finesse first. Yes, it loses, and West can continue with a low diamond, but he has no entry left. (If he also has the heart ace, declarer probably had no chance.)