Bridge

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N-S game; dealer South

North

4J 8 5 3

!Q 6 3

#J 6 2

2K 9 6

West East

410 4 4K Q 9 7

!A J 7 4 !10

#Q 7 5 3 #10 8 4

2Q 10 3 2J 8 5 4 2

South

4A 6 2

!K 9 8 5 2

#A K 9

2A 7

Suppose that you are declarer in a no-trump contract with A, K, 9 of a suit in hand and J, 6, 2 in dummy and the opening lead is the three. Do you play low from the table, or put up the jack? (There has been no opposition bidding to help you.)

On this deal, from a multiple teams event, the bidding had gone along the lines of 1! - 14 - 2NT - 3NT - all pass and, with an unattractive lead to find, a common choice by West was #3.

Some declarers tried the jack and now, with three tricks in hearts to give them their contract (ducking one round of spades if West switched when he was in). Others played low from dummy at trick one but now, with only two diamond tricks, the contract usually failed.

Was it a complete guess by those who got it right? In a sense, but only in a sense (a favourite saying of Plum Meredith). The jack is correct for, as the play went when declarer played low, West could be certain that his partner did not hold the nine, and so he had no temptation to continue the suit when he got in.

But suppose that West had led from 10, 7, 5, 3 and that the jack had been covered by the queen. Now when West gets in with a heart, he will not know who holds the critical #9, and may well judge to continue the suit instead of passively getting off lead.

A tiny point, but it always pays to make life difficult for the opponents.

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