Greenwich Time (Sunday)

To preempt or not?

- Frank Stewart

Today’s South wouldn’t (I hope) have opened four spades as dealer — with a side ace and second-round heart control. North would pass with 75, A964, 876, AQ107 when slam would depend only on winning one of two finesses.

South should also avoid bidding four spades if he were in second seat, or if East opened the bidding. North could still have enough strength to make slam a favorite, and since South owns the ranking suit, he has less urgency to preempt. To open or overcall one spade and await developmen­ts would be a reasonable course.

But when West opened and East responded, South discounted the chances for slam and leaped to four spades. He expected a chance for 10 tricks and might make it hard for EastWest to locate a paying sacrifice.

West led the king of diamonds, and South won and saw that he might need to ruff his third club in dummy. He led a club and, for an extra chance, played dummy’s nine. East took the ten and led a trump, and South put up the ace. When West followed low, South led another club. West won, cashed his king of trumps and led a club to East’s king. Down one.

“At least I didn’t try a heart finesse,” declarer said. “Then I would go down two.”

South makes his game with elegant play. He leads a heart to dummy’s ace at Trick Two and returns the nine of clubs. East can’t gain by putting up his king, so South’s jack loses to West’s ace. If West leads another heart, South ruffs and leads a second club to the queen and king. He wins East’s trump shift and ruffs his last club in dummy to assure the contract.

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