Bridge column, January 30: Temptation can be a terrible trap
Mark Twain said, "There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice."
At the bridge table, though, it is not cowardice to avoid temptation if that would risk your going down in a contract that must succeed with an alternative line of play.
This deal features one of the strongest lures in bridge. How should South play in four spades after West leads the diamond jack?
Two no-trump is the right opening bid with that South hand. If North had raised to three no-trump, there would have been nine easy tricks. But it was normal to use Stayman.
South starts with four potential losers: three hearts and one club. He has nine top tricks: five spades, three diamonds and one club. It is tempting to draw trumps and to try the club finesse. If it wins, declarer is trying for an overtrick, but what happens when it loses? Unless West unwisely shifts to hearts, South should lose three hearts and go down one.
The club finesse should be avoided. Instead, at trick two, declarer should play a spade to dummy's queen. When the suit does not break 4-0, South draws trumps, cashes his two remaining diamond winners and the club ace, then leads the club queen.
West wins but is endplayed. If he shifts to a heart, declarer plays second hand low and loses only two tricks in the suit. Alternatively, if West returns a diamond or a club, South ruffs in the dummy (gaining a sixth spade trick) and sluffs a heart from his hand.
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