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Posted on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Bridge column, January 10: The trumps add several dimensions

By Phillip Alder

Alija Izetbegovic, the first president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said, "In these negotiations we are not a helpless object, although great world powers are involved. We play an active role and try to influence our destiny; we have our own trump cards and we use them."

That is a major conundrum of many contracts -- when do you play your trump cards? Do you draw those held by the opponents immediately, after a short while, later or never?

There are two guidelines. First, if your loser count is not more than you can afford, draw trumps as quickly as possible. Second, if trumps are breaking badly, you usually do best not to touch them -- but until you start trumps, you will not know that they are splitting unfavorably! It is a Catch-22.

If you are missing the trump ace, think three times about immediately leading a trump. Check that the opponents cannot do something unfriendly -- as they could in this deal.

South is in four spades. West leads the heart queen. The defenders take two heart tricks, then shift to a diamond. How should declarer continue?

North was right to blast into four spades with so many trumps and relatively few points. East was tempted to make a takeout double, but five hearts doubled would have cost 500.

South is faced with four losers: one spade, two hearts and one diamond. He must eliminate that diamond loser. So, before touching trumps, he must try to take three club tricks. This requires playing a club to dummy's king, followed by a club to his jack. When the finesse works, declarer discards dummy's remaining diamond on the club ace. Finally it is time to play a trump.

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