What do authors mean by "intermediate" players? I have heard of bridge teachers, attempting to decide into which grade to put a potential student, holding a card up in full view and asking: "What's this?". "The Queen of Clubs!" "Good, you are in the intermediate class!"

This is why I would grade Freddie North's excellent Bridge: the Vital Principles (Batsford, pounds 8.99) as good material for the upper range of intermediate players. Take this deal where, after an unopposed auction (14 - 1#; 24 - 44) South plays in Four Spades and West leads !5 to the four and queen. It is a nice exercise in keeping control.

First of all, consider what happens if declarer wins and ruffs a heart immediately. With no quick entry back to hand, he draws trumps and takes a diamond finesse. This fails, West is put in with the king of hearts, and now a club switch scuppers the contract. Yes, it was unlucky to find both 2A and #Q badly placed, but how could declarer have done better?

He must allow East's queen of hearts to win the first trick! (And how many players of your acquaintance, intermediate or not, would do that?) Suppose East continues hearts: South wins, ruffs his remaining heart in dummy, and draws trumps. Next he takes the diamond finesse and, win or lose, he is home and dry. The opponent's communications have been cut and East can no longer put his partner in with a heart for the killing club switch.

Not only is the deal a good example of keeping control, it also illustrates (yet again) the adage: "Don't play too quickly to the first trick."

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