Pursuits: Bridge

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The Independent Culture
HOW SHOULD you play the spade suit on this deal for four tricks? It seems quite close - as the cards lie, the winning line is to take two finesses, one against 49, the next against the queen. Declarer tried an alternative that was unsuccessful - but was able to recover after a defensive blunder.

South opened 1 No-trumps (15-17 points) and North, normally a conservative bidder, scraped up a raise to 2 No-trumps. Aware of his partner's habitual reticence, South went on to game. West led 22 against 3 No-trumps - pleasant enough for declarer - but dummy was a disappointment and there seemed no hope unless the spade losers could be restricted to one.

After winning 210 with his queen, declarer led 48 to the five, ten and ace. East academically returned 25 and, after winning, South led a spade to the king. The queen did not fall and, in a resigned fashion, South conceded spade. Now West started to think - the play in the club suit so far was consistent with his partner having started with 21053 and declarer with 2AQJ8, so he switched (disastrously) to !7. East gloomily contributed his king - it was too late for the damage to be repaired - and suddenly what had seemed only eight tricks had blossomed into 11.

Certainly West had a problem, even if you do not like his heart switch, but could East have helped, I wonder? Certainly 25 was the "correct" club to return but it left the uncertainty as to whether he had started with five cards in the suit or only three. Knowing that his partner held four, the return of 23 - falsely suggesting only a four card holding - would have made it easy for West to continue the suit with his king when he was in.

Game all; dealer South

North

4K 10 4

!Q 10 6 5 2

#K 10 7

27 4

West East

4Q 9 5 4A 2

!J 8 7 !K 4 3

#Q 3 2 #J 8 6

2K 9 6 2 2J 10 8 5 3

South

4J 8 7 6 3

!A 9

#A 9 5 4

2A Q

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