Bridge column, February 6: A suit combination with possibilities
Bridge is full of suit combinations that can be played in different ways, depending on the number of tricks needed or the circumstances in a particular deal. Taken in isolation, how should South handle today's heart suit for either five tricks or four? And in the full deal, how should South play in six hearts after West leads the diamond queen?
In the auction, North's three-heart rebid was game-forcing. South's three spades was a control-bid (cue-bid) indicating a maximum, the spade ace and slam interest if North had a sufficiently strong hand. Four clubs and four diamonds were also control-bids, showing the aces of those suits.
To play the heart suit without loss, declarer should cash dummy's king before finessing his jack. If South can afford one loser, he should cash his ace, play low to dummy's king, and lead back toward his jack. (This would be the right play in six hearts if West had led a spade, not a diamond.)
In this deal, though, if South loses an early trump trick, the opponents will cash two diamond winners. The best line of play is to take the heart king and ace immediately. Here, the queen drops and declarer can claim an overtrick. But if the queen remains elusive, South plays on clubs, hoping to discard both of his diamond losers. If hearts are 3-2, declarer needs the defender with the queen to have at least three clubs. If hearts are 4-1 without giving South two unavoidable losers, the key defender must hold at least four clubs.
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