The Punxsutawney Spirit

Alder's NEA Bridge: Move halfway around the table

- By Phillip Alder

There are many contracts that declarers misplay without realizing it. Often they will make the contract anyway and think nothing of it. Sometimes two wrongs make a right. But once in a blue moon, the dozy dive to defeat when the opposing cards divide detrimenta­lly. Then come the grumbles about bad luck. Maybe success was impossible, but a fair chunk of the time, a better approach would have worked.

In today's deal, what is the correct line for South in three no-trump after West leads the heart queen?

North had a textbook takeout double over one heart: short hearts and length in the other three suits. South's jump to two no-trump showed 10-12 points with, usually, at least two heart stoppers. North had an easy raise to game.

The original declarer saw that he had only five top tricks: three spades and two hearts. But he expected to get four more tricks from clubs, and he knew all about the "honor from the shorter side first" dictate.

So, after taking trick one in his hand, South led the club queen. West won with his ace and persevered with the heart nine. Declarer took that and cashed the club jack. When East discarded a low spade, South knew that he was doomed.

Rules be damned! This is one of the rare deals when declarer must ignore the textbooks. The correct play at trick two is to lead the club four from the South hand. How can West defend?

If West takes his ace, declarer wins three spades, two hearts and four clubs. Alternativ­ely, if West plays low on the club, South wins with dummy's king and shifts to diamonds to get home.

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