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Posted on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 5 a.m.

Bridge column, January 15: The abnormal play is hard to make

By Philip Adler

William James, an eminent 18th- and 19th-century psychologist, said, "To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal."

Today's deal seems to contain a normal play, but is it time for an abnormal one? South is in three no-trump. West leads the diamond king. What should declarer do?

South had seven top tricks: one spade, one heart, one diamond and four clubs. He saw that at least two more tricks would come from spades. And since he knew a Bath Coup when he saw one, he played his low diamond at trick one.

However, East had correctly played his diamond three. And West knew that his partner would have thrown out the jack or ace if he had held it, or played a high spot card. So West cleverly shifted to the heart jack. This time, East encouraged enthusiastically with his nine. Declarer ducked, but West continued with the heart 10, and East accurately overtook with his queen.

Now South could not succeed. If he had taken this trick, crossed to the dummy with a club, and tried the spade finesse, West would have won with his king and led his last heart to give the defenders one spade, four hearts and one diamond. And if South had ducked the second heart, East would have reverted to diamonds, giving the defense one spade, two hearts and four diamonds (unless declarer cashed his seven top tricks).

South should have won the first trick, crossed to the dummy, and run the spade queen. Yes, the finesse would have lost, but declarer's diamond jack-four would have been a stopper with West on lead.

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