Con­tract Bridge

Lay that pis­tol down

The Weekly Vista - - Fun & Games - by Steve Becker

If some­one is aim­ing a gun at your head, it is a good idea — as a mat­ter of self-preser­va­tion — to dis­arm him if you can safely do so.

An anal­o­gous sit­u­a­tion arises at the bridge ta­ble when a par­tic­u­lar op­po­nent threat­ens your chances of mak­ing the con­tract. In such a cir­cum­stance, you should do what­ever you can to elim­i­nate the threat.

Take this case where you are in three notrump and West leads a spade. You win East’s jack with the queen, and it is ob­vi­ous that the con­tract is ice-cold if West has the king of di­a­monds. In that case, re­peated fi­nesses will over­come the king, and you will fin­ish with 11 or 12 tricks.

But if you start out by at­tack­ing di­a­monds and East has the king, there is a real dan­ger that a spade re­turn will ul­ti­mately do you in. This could eas­ily hap­pen if West started with five or six spades and the ace of hearts.

Once you rec­og­nize the threat posed by West, it is not dif­fi­cult to find the ap­pro­pri­ate coun­ter­mea­sure. So at trick two you lead the queen or jack of hearts in­stead of at­tack­ing di­a­monds. This play vir­tu­ally elim­i­nates all chance of go­ing down.

If West has the ace and takes it, you plan to duck his spade re­turn and win the next one. Now when you take the di­a­mond fi­nesse, you are on safe ground. If the fi­nesse loses, ei­ther East will not have a spade to lead (be­cause West started with at least five of them), or East will have a spade to lead (be­cause the spades were orig­i­nally di­vided 4-4).

Sim­i­larly, if East has the ace of hearts and takes it, you duck his spade re­turn be­fore try­ing the di­a­mond fi­nesse. Ei­ther way, the con­tract is se­cured by lead­ing a heart first, ef­fec­tively dis­arm­ing West by re­mov­ing the pis­tol — the ace of hearts — from his pos­ses­sion be­fore he has a chance to use it against you.

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