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Read the lead to improve defense

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Updated: March 2, 2013 6:03AM



J. William Fulbright, a senator from Arkansas for 30 years and the longest-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us.”

That certainly applies to bridge players. In today’s deal, look at the North and East hands. South is in four hearts. West leads the club nine: three, ace, jack. How should East plan the defense?

North’s two-diamond response was a transfer bid, showing five or more hearts. South’s jump to three hearts, a superaccept, promised a maximum with four hearts and a doubleton somewhere.

Bridge is full of little ditties that were designed to help less capable players. Here, many Easts will think of “return partner’s lead.”

Yesterday we learned that playing a club back at trick two is not necessarily fatal. A crafty South will win that trick and cash his third club, discarding a spade from the dummy before taking the heart finesse. But the defense can still triumph.

However, at trick one, East should analyze his partner’s lead. It must be top of nothing. So why continue clubs? It cannot help. Instead, East should shift to a spade or diamond, and given the dummy, a spade seems the natural choice.

South does best to win with his ace and cash his two clubs, discarding a spade from the dummy. But East should note his partner’s discouraging spade two. Then, when in with the heart king, East should cash the diamond ace and (seeing West’s encouraging nine) continue with another diamond to defeat the contract.



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