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Do Your Own Thinking

  by Richard Pavlicek

Bridge has acquired many cliches over the years. “When in doubt, lead trumps”; “Eight ever, nine never”; and “Always cover an honor with an honor” are a few that come to mind. These dubious words of wisdom usually have some basis of truth; but they are so often misapplied that their value is almost nil. The way to become an expert is not to depend on slogans but to do your own thinking.

On today’s deal South opened one notrump and became declarer in four spades after a routine Stayman sequence. Did he make it? Yes, because East defended with a catchphrase instead of a brain.

4 S South
E-W Vul
S Q J 5 3
H 7 5
D 9 8 6
C K Q 10 8

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

Lead: H 6
S A K 9 2
H J 4
D A J 3
C A 9 7 3

West led the heart six and East won the first two tricks with the king and ace. “Lead around to weakness,” remembered East, so he shifted to a diamond. Declarer ducked this to West’s queen and easily won the rest of the tricks with the diamond finesse.

Leading around to weakness is often good advice, but the term “weakness” is not well defined. In this case North’s diamond holding was significant; the nine and eight were important cards. East was oblivious to this, and his lead gave away the contract.

Now let’s think like an expert: West’s lead of the heart six followed by the two shows a five-card suit (assuming fourth-best leads), so South is marked with a doubleton. The bidding places South with four spades (with five he would surely open one spade with J-4 in hearts). This leaves South with seven cards in the minors — the same as dummy — so he cannot benefit from a discard. Therefore, there is no urgency to lead diamonds; the defenders’ tricks, if any, will not go away.

East should lead a trump at trick three. Declarer’s best play is to draw trumps, cash three rounds of clubs ending in dummy, and lead the diamond nine. East must again be alert and play the king. Now declarer can stand on his head if he wants, but there is no way to avoid the loss of two diamond tricks; down one.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek