The Signal

Sewing keeps the contract intact

- By Phillip Alder

For the final cliche of the week, we turn to: “A stitch in time saves nine.” Whoever dreamed up this saying must have had a particular love of three-no-trump contracts. There’s not much point in concentrat­ing on winning nine tricks when you are playing in four of a major!

In today’s three-no-trump deal, West led the spade nine, and East covered dummy’s card with the king. How did South knit a nine-trick sweater?

South didn’t have enough strength for a two-over-one response; hence his one-notrump response. North had an easy raise to game. (With a natural system, it is hard to reach five or six clubs, the slam basically depending on the spade finesse.)

Seeing three spade tricks landing in his lap, South won the first trick with the spade ace and led a club to dummy’s queen. However, East defended well by holding up his ace. When the club nine followed, East went in with his ace, knowing he had cut declarer’s communicat­ion in the suit. With no hand entry remaining, South could win only eight tricks: three spades, two hearts, two diamonds and one club.

If only South had been willing to cast off one spade trick, he would have purled five club tricks in return. South should have made the unusual play of withholdin­g his spade ace at trick one.

Suppose that East returns a spade. South wins in the dummy and drives out the club ace. He still holds the spade ace as an entry to the establishe­d club winners, and the contract comes home with two overtricks.

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