The Dallas Morning News

By BOBBY WOLFF

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Bridge writers occasional­ly introduce a deal as taking place in a local competitio­n or in a knockout match; this seems to be a way to add a touch of verisimili­tude to an otherwise bald and unconvinci­ng narrative. Be that as it may, today’s deal really did crop up in a knockout match, I swear on the bones of Saint Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalism.

Both declarers missed the point of this deal — though one earned a consolatio­n prize for envisionin­g the problem, even if he didn’t quite put the defenders under maximum pressure.

Each South reached slam after North had forced in diamonds then invited slam in four notrump. In one room, South won the club lead in dummy, played a diamond to the jack and then lost two diamonds and a spade.

In the other room, declarer won the heart lead and passed the spade jack. East thoughtful­ly ducked, confident declarer had four spades from his partner’s low spotcard on that trick.

Now declarer safetyplay­ed the diamonds by laying down the king, trying to protect against a 41 diamond break, and eventually lost a diamond and a spade. If East had taken his spade king, South might have guessed to start diamonds by playing the ace, after which he could have finessed against East’s remaining spots. (Without the diamond seven, leading low to the jack on the first round is the right play for no losers.)

But would East have ducked the first spade if declarer had first led low to the queen? I doubt it!

Answer: You may hate this hand and regret that you responded, but now is not the time to breach discipline by passing out a forcing bid. Give support to three diamonds and hope that you can come to a stop in game in spades, hearts, diamonds or notrump. What partner does next should help you decide.

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