Sam Leven­son, a hu­morist who ap­peared in sev­eral tele­vi­sion shows, said, “My mother used to get up ev­ery morn­ing at 5 a.m., no mat­ter what time it was.”

In yes­ter­day’s deal, one de­fender had to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion im­me­di­ately; a thought­less sec­ond hand low at trick two would have been fa­tal. It is rare that one must find the key play that early in a deal. Usu­ally, the big mo­ment comes later -but per­haps not much later.

In this deal, how should East plan the de­fense against four spades af­ter West leads the fourth-high­est di­a­mond three?

South has a good hand for a pre-empt these days, but that hap­pens oc­ca­sion­ally, espe­cially at un­fa­vor­able vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Some would start with four spades, but the hand has no sin­gle­ton, and if the op­po­nents have a lot of points, they will tend to dou­ble and col­lect a penalty. Three spades dou­bled is less likely.

East should re­al­ize that his side must take four mi­nor-suit tricks: ei­ther three di­a­monds (West led from queen-fourth of di­a­monds) and one club, or two di­a­monds and two clubs. To know which way to turn, East needs input from West.

Af­ter win­ning the first trick with the di­a­mond king, East cashes the di­a­mond ace and looks closely at his part­ner’s card. Here, it is the two, show­ing that West started with a five-card suit. So, now, East must shift to a low club. If West has the king, ev­ery­thing works. But if West has the queen, de­clarer must be forced to guess. (If I were West with queen-high di­a­monds and king-high clubs, I would have led a club.)

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