Independent Pursuits: Bridge

"YOU ARE certainly one of the best card-holders that I've ever met," West grunted to South after this deal. "But it's no good holding strong hands if things go badly for you," replied South. Perhaps he should have added that it is no good either if you play them badly.

After two passes East opened One Diamond and, holding his usual rock- crusher, South overcalled with Four Hearts to end the auction. West led #J against the heart game and, to declarer, the sight of dummy was very reassuring: 4A and !9 - what more could he want? East overtook the lead at trick one and continued the suit.

Without a care in the world declarer ruffed the third round of diamonds high and started on trumps by leading low to dummy's nine. East took his ace and led a fourth round of diamonds to promote West's !8 for the setting trick. "That really was unlucky!" was South's initial reaction. "Still, I had 100 for honours. No score!"

As well as his honours, South should have scored his vulnerable game. Barring an extraordinary distribution, the only real danger lay in finding the trumps divided as they were. It may look unnatural, but the way to cater for this 4-1 break is to cross to dummy's 4A before broaching trumps by leading !2 from dummy. East has to play his ace on thin air and now, with the carefully preserved !9 intact on the table, declarer can again ruff a further diamond lead high without any possibility of a trump promotion.

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