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Posted on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Bridge column, January 27: Do not waste the power of the 10

By Phillip Alder

Mark Twain said, "If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there 10 years later."

This deal was not played in Cincinnati, but one of those words is apropos of the right line of play. South is in four spades. West leads the heart queen. The defenders take two tricks in the suit, then shift to a diamond. How should declarer continue?

It would be easy to end in three no-trump here, North raising immediately when South shows a balanced hand with a good 22, 23 or 24 points. But with minimal game values and a low doubleton, North is probably right to use Stayman to try to locate a 4-4 spade fit. And here it is certainly better because East and West can rattle off the first five tricks in no-trump. (The snag with Stayman arises when a 4-4 fit is not found, because the defenders have been given extra information about declarer's hand.)

In four spades, the mirror distribution is annoying (as it usually is). There are three side-suit losers: two hearts and one diamond. So the trump suit must be played without loss.

It is easy to get careless by immediately crossing to dummy's king, then returning to the ace. But that is fatal here, because there is no dummy entry left to take a finesse of the spade 10.

Instead, South should cash his ace, then play the five over to dummy's king. Upon seeing the bad break (despite West's discarding a club!), declarer knows to lead a spade to his 10, draw East's last trump, and claim.

Don't overlook the power of your 10s, now or later.

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