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Norm MacDonald said, "I would love to stay at 'SNL' ('Saturday Night Live') forever. But you can't stay in the same place. People think you're a loser." Or you become typecast.

In bridge, everyone gets used to having losers. You cannot make a grand slam on every deal. The real art is not conceding too many tricks. But quite often losing early works better than losing late.

In today's deal, South is in four hearts. West leads the club jack, and the defenders keep playing the suit. Should South ruff or discard at trick three? What is East's best defense?

If South had stretched to open two no-trump, he probably would have regretted it, losing four clubs and one spade in three no-trump.

It would be weird for South to discard his diamond loser at trick three, because he would then need the spade finesse to work. If instead he ruffs (high if careful) and draws trumps, even though the spade finesse loses, declarer has 10 tricks: three spades, five hearts and two diamonds.

Note, though, that East has a chance to deceive South. When declarer runs the spade queen, East should play low smoothly. Then, when South runs the spade jack, East plays low in tempo again! Now declarer could play a spade to dummy's ace to guarantee his contract (and win an unexpected overtrick), but most Souths would greedily play a spade to dummy's 10. Then East would pull the spade king out of his sleeve, and the contract would fail.

If declarer is sure to repeat a losing finesse, the defender with the winner should usually duck at least once.

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