Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Obeying the Law

- Frank Stewart

Let’s apply the “Law of Total Tricks” to today’s deal. The Law (which is really a statistica­l oddity, not a law) states that the total number of trumps both sides have in their best trump suit equals the total number of tricks available. Today, NorthSouth have nine spades and East-West have 10 hearts, so 19 tricks should be won at heart and spade contracts. Thus saith the Law.

Let’s see. If West were allowed to play at four hearts, he would make it easily, losing a trump to North’s king and two clubs when a finesse for the queen failed.

When the deal actually arose, South came in with four spades. Most players would have done the same with so much potential playing strength. West, who held three aces and figured he might get at least one diamond ruff, doubled. East, having described his hand — long hearts but weak in high cards — passed trustingly.

West led the ace of diamonds and shifted to a club. Dummy played low, and East won and returned a diamond. West ruffed and got his ace of trumps for down one.

East-West take 10 tricks at hearts, North-South take nine at spades. Does the deal vindicate the LOTT?

At four spades doubled, South can grab the ace of clubs and lead dummy’s king of hearts, pitching his queen of clubs — a “scissors coup.” Then East can’t get in to give West a diamond ruff, and South loses only three tricks.

The LOTT is generally most accurate in partscore deals. It often breaks down at higher levels, as it does here. Moreover, deals are played at the table, not in theory.

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