ACES ON BRIDGE
It is a cliche (and not an especially accurate one) that rules are made to be broken. The trick is knowing when to apply a rule and when external events should persuade you to vary from the prescribed course.
Today’s deal comes from the 2016 Summer Nationals in Washington, D.C. Everyone knows that, missing four cards to the queen (or a lower honor), it is right to play for the drop. This is based on the phrase “eight ever, nine never.” But this statement about what to do when missing four trumps is only true in a vacuum. The concept is based on the vacant space principle, which gives you very slight odds of playing for the drop. However, when you get a count of a side suit, it may affect your decision one way or the other, and this hand is a good example.
When the field played four spades by South,
West obediently led a diamond in response to his partner’s overcall. This would have been a splendid moment to find the false-card of leading the five, but in real life everyone would lead the six, top of a doubleton. East cashed his three red-suit winners and led a third diamond.
Without the clues from the auction, the way forward for declarer would not be clear. As it is, though, the auction strongly suggests that declarer should ruff high, cash the other high spade and play a spade to the 10. This is because the 6-2 diamond break makes West more likely to have three trumps than two.
ANSWER: You should expect that declarer will have an unbalanced hand with about 15 HCP, dummy four hearts and 6-8 points. It feels wrong to play for diamond ruffs; instead, maybe try to set up tricks in a black suit. This hand is a toss-up, but I’d go for clubs rather than spades, since partner didn’t raise the overcall.
Four be the things I’d been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles and doubt.
— Dorothy Parker