The Hamilton Spectator

Not only robots, but humans too


Steve Clarke, the manager of the Scotland national soccer team, said, “At the end of the day, you want a straightfo­rward, simple system that everyone understand­s.” He could have been talking about bridge bidding.

Most deals are susceptibl­e to a straightfo­rward approach. You find the best line of play, adopt it and either make the contract or fail, as the case may be.

However, occasional­ly a certain subtlety, a degree of subterfuge, is necessary to improve your chances of success.

In today’s deal, South was in three no-trump. West led his fourth-highest spade seven: three, 10, jack. What should have happened next?

Strangely, declarer led the club queen from his hand at trick two. Even more strangely, East took that trick and returned a heart, not a spade.

A grateful declarer claimed nine tricks: one spade, three hearts, four diamonds and one club. If only East had led back his second spade, West would have collected five tricks there for down two.

Having said that, did South play to best advantage? If the hearts were breaking 3-3, he would have had nine top tricks: one spade, four hearts and four diamonds. However, a 3-3 split occurs only just over one-third of the time.

The line — practical, not technical — is to cross to dummy at trick two with a diamond and to lead a low club toward the queen. If West has the club ace, the contract is always safe, whereas if East has the ace, he might play “second hand low,” whereupon declarer wins with the queen and runs for home. East shouldn’t go wrong, but many players operate on autopilot.

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