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Posted on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Bridge column, October 25: Two chances are better than one

By Phillip Alder


Matthew Arnold, an English poet, critic and school inspector who died in 1888, wrote, "For the creation of a masterwork of literature, two powers must concur: the power of the man and the power of the moment."

For the creation of a master-play of bridge, two powers must concur: the power of the declarer (or defender) and the power of the cards.

The master-play in today's deal is deceptively difficult. You are in three no-trump. West leads the heart queen to your king. What would you do?

North's three-diamond rebid was game-invitational. But with six strong diamonds and a side ace, he might have rebid two hearts, fourth-suit artificial and game-forcing.

You have seven top tricks: one spade, two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. The other two tricks might come from either minor. Probably your first thought was that a 3-2 diamond break is much more likely (67.8 percent) than a 3-3 club split (35.53 percent). And it is so often the right play to duck the first round of a suit. So perhaps you immediately played a low diamond from both hands.

Here, though, that fails when diamonds break 4-1.

You can try both chances. Start with dummy's two top diamonds. If they divide 3-2, concede a diamond trick and claim an overtrick, with the spade ace as the dummy entry. But when diamonds split 4-1, shift to clubs, getting home since they are 3-3. This line wins if either diamonds are 3-2 or clubs are 3-3, which combines to produce a 79.2 percent chance of success.

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