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

Sur­prise is the great­est gift which life can grant us.

— Boris Paster­nak

Fans of Dave Barry’s side-split­ting col­umn will no doubt be fa­mil­iar with his use of a sub­mis­sion com­ing from “an alert reader” — which usu­ally pre­cedes a tall but true tale.

In this case, our alert reader is Ira Her­man, who gave this splen­did take on an old theme, but one with a sur­pris­ing tweak. Af­ter North opens four clubs to show a strong heart pre-empt, you de­clare four hearts on the lead of the club king. Plan the play.

At the ta­ble, South did what the ma­jor­ity of de­clar­ers would surely have done, es­cap­ing pun­ish­ment thanks to a care­less de­fense. He pitched a di­a­mond on the club ace, then led a heart to­ward dummy’s hon­ors.

All East had to do was win the heart ace and play the di­a­mond king and an­other di­a­mond to West’s ace for a third di­a­mond to pro­mote East’s heart 10.

West, how­ever, failed to com­plete the killing play, and de­clarer emerged rel­a­tively un­scathed, with only his pride dam­aged. How should he have done bet­ter?

De­clarer should have played a sec­ond club at trick two to pitch a di­a­mond. This might, I ad­mit, ex­pose you to a ruff against a 5-1 di­a­mond break, but the ac­tual dan­ger from the 4-2 di­a­mond break is surely far higher.

Once you pitch a di­a­mond from dummy, the de­fend­ers’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions are ir­repara­bly cut. You can­not be pre­vented from cross­ing to hand with the spade king to lead a heart in due course, and from that point you can be as­sured of mak­ing 10 tricks.

AN­SWER: You can make a solid case for re­dou­bling, but the prob­lem comes when op­po­nents bid and raise hearts. How do you de­scribe your hand now? Bid­ding spades would over­state the suit, but pass­ing might lose it al­to­gether. I’d set­tle for a sim­ple ones­pade call, plan­ning to dou­ble a heart bid (for take­out, since this is an agreed suit) if the op­po­nents make one.

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