Bridge: Thinking low to hit the heights

'I HAD the choice of playing for the clubs to be 3-3 or hoping that West held the queen of spades (he had opened the bidding) and neither works,' mourned South after this deal. We all sympathised, but had he missed something?

Game all; dealer West

North

K J 2

7 6

J 10 7 3

Q 5 4 2

West

A 4 3

Q 10 8 5 2

A

K 10 9 6

East

Q 8 7

9 4 3

8 6 5 4 2

8 7

South

10 9 6 5

A K J

K Q 9

A J 3

West opened One Heart and after two passages South bid Two No-Trumps - systematically showing a balanced 17-19 points. North went on to game and West led the five of hearts against Three No-Trumps.

It was an easy start. After winning cheaply with the jack, declarer led the king of diamonds to West's ace and won the next heart lead. Now he was at the cross- roads - West had opened the bidding and clearly held most, if not all, of the missing high cards. Playing West for the queen of spades looked a better bet than relying on an even club break but the sequel was disappointing when the ten of spades lost to East's queen.

East was able to clear the hearts and now, when West got in with his ace of spades, he had two heart winners to cash. It is true to say that leading the jack of clubs or cashing the ace and then leading the jack do not help either, but try the effect of a low club from hand. If West goes in with his king, there are three club tricks; and if West plays low, dummy's queen wins. Then after coming to hand with a diamond, declarer can simply lead a spade towards the king for his ninth trick. Even if East turns up with the king of clubs, there would still have been the chance of three club tricks.

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