The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 21, 2013

Saturday bridge column: Resist the desire to 'commit suicide'

Editor's note: This column will continue to appear daily in the Currents section of The Free Press (except Sundays). Saturday's column, however, had to be placed online due to space constraints in that day's edition.

Robert Byrne, an author and expert on billiards (not the chess player), said, "Nobody ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have while trying to write one."

Some bridge players metaphorically commit suicide by making a play that kills their contract when they could have kept it alive by doing something different -- and should have worked that out with careful analysis.

In today's deal, South puts himself into four spades. West leads the heart eight because his partner bid the suit twice. East wins with his ace and returns the heart queen. What should declarer do?

It would have been sensible for South to rebid three no-trump, not four spades. Assuming West is going to lead a heart, that would give South nine top tricks.

In four spades, given that dummy has the club king, there seem to be 10 top tricks: six spades, one heart, one diamond and two clubs. So perhaps South thinks that he can take the second trick with his heart king, draw trumps, and claim. However, drawing trumps would be delayed because West ruffs the heart king. If West returns a trump, the contract is dead. Or if, say, West shifts to a diamond, South will win and play a heart. Now West must ruff high and lead his last spade -- surely not taxing plays to find.

The bidding marks West with a singleton heart. So South should play a low heart, not his king, at trick two. And if East persists with a third heart, South plays low again. With declarer's 10th winner safe, the contract rolls home.

Stop to consider the alternatives.

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