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Bridge in Paradise: by Neil Robinson

After some bidding challenges in recent columns, here is a hand to play. With no one vulnerable East dealt and opened 2H, showing a weak hand and six hearts. You are sitting South and end up as declarer in 4S. Imagine you are playing rubber bridge, so overtricks are not important, but making the contract is. West leads the king of hearts. How do you play to ensure you make the contract?

Did you take the ace of hearts on the first trick, hoping to eventually throw your second heart from hand on the long diamond? If so, you may go down. Maybe you ducked the ace and took the second heart, then pulled trumps by playing the ace and king of spades, following the rule of eight ever, nine never. Wrong again! The full deal is shown below.

If spades do not split (which is likely after an opening preempt showing a distributional hand), then you have a potential spade loser and a potential heart loser. You cannot afford more than one club loser. To make sure of this, you must keep East off lead. East is the danger hand because a club lead by East through your king will result in you losing to both the ace and queen of clubs. If you pull trumps by playing the ace and king, then East will trump the second round of diamonds and lead a club. Down one. So you must take a finesse in trumps to keep East off lead, no matter who has the spade queen. On today’s deal, this gives you an overtrick. But what happens if West has the queen of spades? This is why it is important to duck the first heart trick. Otherwise, West wins the queen of spades, leads a heart to get into East’s hand, and back comes a club. The only way to guarantee East is kept off lead and thus to guarantee the contract is both to duck the first heart and to finesse in trumps. Congratulations if you saw the danger and got it right!
I would like to hear from readers about their favourite hands—please do contact me at [email protected] Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes all players. We have members from seventeen different countries already. For information on the Club go to the website

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Bridge in Paradise