How well do you spot the spots?

Cecil Whig - - & & - By Phillip Alder

Mark Twain said, “I was born modest; not all over, but in spots.” One as­pect of bridge that sep­a­rates the top play­ers from oth­ers is tak­ing full ad­van­tage of the use­ful spot cards (2 through 10) -- in par­tic­u­lar, know­ing when a low spot is a win­ner.

How is that rel­e­vant in to­day’s deal? Af­ter West leads the club king, how should South pro­ceed in four spades? Did West have a more suc­cess­ful open­ing lead? South’s jump to four spades was a slight over­bid with a six-loser hand, but we tend to bid game with any ex­cuse. Of course, here, if South had cho­sen to re­bid three no-trump, North would surely have passed, and de­clarer would have had nine top tricks. (Also, there was a case for West’s mak­ing a take­out dou­ble over one spade, not a two-club over­call. It would not have made much dif­fer­ence here, but the dou­ble would have been more flex­i­ble.) In four spades, though, South has only those same nine tricks; he is faced with four losers: two hearts, one di­a­mond and one club. Is there any hope?

Look at those in­ter­est­ing club spots. De­clarer should win the first trick, draw trumps and re­turn the club nine. Sup­pose West finds the best de­fense, tak­ing the trick and shift­ing to the heart queen. South wins on the board, leads the club 10 and dis­cards a heart loser. Yes, West takes that trick and cashes a heart win­ner, but South’s di­a­mond loser evap­o­rates on the now-high club eight. If West had led any­thing other than a club, the con­tract would have failed.

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