Con­tract Bridge

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Saturday - Steve becker

When plan­ning the play, de­clarer should seek the ap­proach that gives him the best chance to make his con­tract. Un­for­tu­nately, the best chance is not al­ways read­ily ap­par­ent.

Con­sider this case where West led a trump against six clubs. East took the ace and re­turned a club, leav­ing de­clarer with three po­ten­tial heart losers. One of these could be dis­carded on a high spade, and an­other could be ruffed in dummy, but in or­der to get rid of the third heart, South had to es­tab­lish an ex­tra trick in one of dummy’s suits.

In prac­tice, de­clarer first cashed the A- K of spades, re­veal­ing the 5- 1 di­vi­sion in that suit. He then led the K- A of di­a­monds and ruffed a di­a­mond. When the op­pos­ing di­a­monds failed to di­vide 3- 3, he had to go down one, as there was no way to get rid of his third heart.

South erred by at­tack­ing the spade suit first. Al­though the spades were stronger, it was clearly bet­ter to tackle the di­a­monds ini­tially. Had he done this, he would have been able to set up and then cash dummy’s fifth di­a­mond, us­ing dummy’s spades as en­tries.

How can South rec­og­nize this in ad­vance? From the out­set, his only real con­cern is a 5- 1 break in the suit he chooses to es­tab­lish. As we have seen, if the spades are broached first and the suit splits 5- 1, South needs a 3- 3 di­a­mond di­vi­sion to make his con­tract.

But if de­clarer goes af­ter the di­a­monds first and runs into a 5- 1 break, he can still make the slam if the miss­ing spades are di­vided 3- 3 or

4- 2. In the lat­ter case, af­ter test­ing for a 3- 3 spade break, de­clarer can ruff a spade, if nec­es­sary, to es­tab­lish dummy’s fifth spade. A heart ruff then pro­vides the re- en­try to dummy, and the con­tract is home.

By at­tack­ing di­a­monds first, de­clarer thus gets three chances to make the slam in­stead of just two.

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