Sunday Star

BRIDGE GETTING A WINNER FROM A THIN HOLDING

- By Phillip Alder ©2021, UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE DISTRIBUTE­D BY ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATIO­N FOR UFS

Leonard Bernstein said, “Inspiratio­n is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time . ... The wait is simply too long.”

I wonder if inspiratio­n comes slower the older one gets. I used to dash out a week of these columns in a morning -- now it usually takes at least a day.

Perhaps the saving grace for today’s column will be when readers spot the winning play because it is unusual, almost counterint­uitive.

How should South play in three no-trump after West leads the heart jack?

This is the single most common auction.

South starts with eight winners in the red suits. He must find his ninth trick from either black suit.

If forced to play on clubs, declarer should lead dummy’s queen, hoping that East has the king and ace, or fails to cover when he has only one of the honors. All in all, not a good shot.

In spades, at first glance one would plan on leading toward the king. West will, in theory, have the ace half the time. However, there is a better approach.

After winning with the heart ace, declarer cashed some diamond winners to make the defenders feel uncomforta­ble. But then he made the key play: He led a low spade from the board. Here, East won with his queen and played another heart, but South took the trick and led the spade jack to drive out East’s ace.

Declarer was safe whenever East had the spade queen or West had the spade queen and ace. The odds? 74%.

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