Games: Bridge

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This deal came up in the 1996 Philadelphia Spring Nationals and presented declarers with an interesting problem. After South had opened the bidding, there was no way to stop short of game, and about half the field chose Four Hearts by North, the rest Three No-trumps by South.

After a club lead, there were no problems for North in Four Hearts, but when 4Q was led he usually went down. There was a route to success, albeit unlikely. Suppose the spade lead is won in dummy and a low club led at trick two. With both top club honours with West, a losing diamond goes away on a third round of clubs, for, if East ruffs, it is with his trump trick.

Now consider South's problems in Three No-trumps against the lead of 22. It was an "attitude" lead so this was very likely to be from a five- card suit. The play goes 27, 29 and declarer wins. But when the hearts cannot be established without losing the lead and #Q fails to drop in two, this leads to only eight tricks.

You could try 2Q from dummy on the first trick, but, although this wins, there are four club tricks for the defenders when East gets in. Nevertheless, there is a solution but not an obvious one. What about letting East's 29 win the first trick? Suddenly the defence are powerless: if they clear the clubs, you can safely lose a heart to East and, if they switch to something else, you still have a guard in clubs. True, again, you may never come to a club trick but five hearts, two spades and two diamonds will be enough.