Bridge: ALAN HIRON

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Love all; dealer South

North

4 7 5 2

! Q 8 7

pounds J 6 4

2 7 5 4 3

West East

4 Q 10 9 6 2 4 K 8

! 10 6 3 ! J 9 5 4 2

pounds 10 9 7 pounds K 5 2

2 9 6 210 8 2

South

4 A J 3

! A K

pounds A Q 8 3

2 A K Q J

This was an odd contract from match-play. One declarer made ten tricks in his contract of Three No-trumps, his counterpart could manage only eight. It led to one of those bridge riddles: which one adopted the better line of play?

Both North-South pairs did well to put on the brakes and stop in Three No-trumps. Even with 31 points in the combined hands, it was not easy to plan the play after the lead of the six of spades to East's king.

One declarer won immediately and, after cashing some clubs, attacked diamonds. This would have worked well if West had held the king of diamonds but you can see what happened - the defenders took their diamond and four spade tricks.

At the other table, South held off on the first spade, won the second and, against after cashing his clubs, tried the diamonds. As East had no more spades and the diamonds broke evenly, there were now ten tricks. Declarer would have gone off, of course, if it had been West who held the king of diamonds.

Back to the riddle we posed earlier: which play was superior? The answer is neither: they were both distinctly inferior compared with the way the hand should have been played. The "sure tricks" line is to win the second spade, cash four clubs and two hearts, and exit with the jack of spades. West is welcome to his spade winners but then has to lead either a heart to dummy's queen or a diamond to give South his ninth trick, irrespective of who holds the king of diamonds.

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