Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - bob­by­wolff@mind­ If you would like to con­tact Bobby Wolff, email him at

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


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