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Great New Book on Declarer Play

  by Richard Pavlicek

If you want to improve your declarer play, I thoroughly recommend Bill Root’s latest book, How to Play a Bridge Hand. Root has been my regular partner in championship events for over 15 years, and I can assure you he knows his stuff. Waiting for him to play a wrong card is like waiting for a solar eclipse.

The hard-cover book contains over 300 pages of lucid text with hundreds of examples. Each of the 12 chapters is followed by a quiz to test your progress. I chose today’s deal from his chapter on “Communication Problems” because it is the kind that average players would miss at the table, yet the principle is clear and succinct.

3 NT South
Both Vul
S A K 7
H 8 7 2
D 5 4 3
C 10 9 6 4


3 NT

2 NT
S 9
H Q 10 6 4 3
D Q 10 9 2
C K J 5
TableS Q J 10 6 4
H 9 5
D J 8
C 8 7 3 2

Lead: H 4
S 8 5 3 2
D A K 7 6

The bidding is straightforward. South opens two notrump — the weak spade holding is not a deterrent — and North raises to game.

West leads the heart four, and declarer counts eight easy tricks: two spades, three hearts (thank you), two diamonds and one club. There are a number of chances: Would you try the club finesse? Or play for a 3-3 diamond break? Or try for a 3-3 spade break? Cover the East-West hands and decide how you would play before reading further.

Hopefully, you didn’t fall for any of the suggestions. The contract is guaranteed — no finesses, regardless of suit breaks — by leading the ace and queen of clubs immediately. Even if you got it right, be sure to ask yourself: Would you have played it this way at the table? Correct plays are easier to spot when posed as a problem because your interest is piqued, while at the table there is no warning bell.

When West wins the club king, regardless of the return, you will reach dummy with the spade king and lead the club 10 to force out the jack. Later the spade ace provides an entry to the good club. As Root points out, you would be defeated with any other play, as there would be insufficient time or entries to enjoy the club trick.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek