The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 16, 2014

Monday bridge column: A signal that is easy to miss

Bertrand Piccard from Switzerland and Brian Jones from England were the first to travel nonstop around the world in a balloon. Piccard said, "Very often, human beings are living like on autopilot, reacting automatically with what happens."

Some bridge players count at the table almost without being aware they are doing it. These experts are on autopilot. That is good. There are many more players who are on a different autopilot, following the typical "rules" of the game, which is occasionally not good.

In this deal, for example, how should the defenders play to defeat three no-trump after West leads his fourth-highest heart four?

In the auction, I disagree with North's using Stayman, because his doubleton is so strong. He should just raise to three no-trump.

We have all heard of "third hand high." And many Easts would not be able to resist using it at trick one, covering dummy's heart five with the seven -- but it is the wrong play. When third hand cannot contribute a nine or higher, he should give count. Here, with an odd number of hearts, he should play the two.

Declarer will win with his jack, cross to dummy with a spade to the queen, and run the diamond 10. West, on winning with his king, should cash the heart ace, knowing that declarer will have to drop his king. West will then run his suit for down one.

If East plays the heart seven at trick one, West should assume East started with a doubleton and shift to a club, trying to get East on lead for a heart lead through declarer's king.

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