Cecil Whig

Bridge A small change, a big difference


Today’s deal might look familiar. The North-South cards are identical to those in yesterday’s column -- except for one small but important change: South’s club 10 is now the three.

Against three no-trump, West leads a card in declarer’s weakest suit, spades. How should the loss of the club 10 affect declarer’s line of play?

After holding up the spade ace until the third round, declarer cashed the club ace, as recommende­d yesterday. When the queen dropped, he smiled. He continued with the club king. When East discarded a heart, South’s smile evaporated. He couldn’t win nine tricks without establishi­ng the clubs, and he couldn’t do that without letting West win a trick in the suit. But when South did that, West cashed two spade tricks to defeat the game.

Why was it right to cash the club ace yesterday but not today? Because if the club queen dropped singleton yesterday, declarer, holding the club 10, could run the whole suit. Today, though, South should take a small precaution. He should play a heart to dummy’s ace at trick four. Then he leads a low club, planning to put up his ace. However, when East plays the queen, South lets East take the trick. The club suit is establishe­d, West cannot cash his spades, and the contract is safe.

If East plays a low club, not the queen, declarer wins with the ace and cashes the king. If the queen appears now, South wins an overtrick. If she doesn’t, South plays a third club, hoping East has to win the trick (or that the spades are 4-4).

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