There are thousands of bridge books available today but not one titled “Play or Defend.” There are many fascinating deals on which a reader can be challenged to decide whether the declarer can succeed after a given lead. A good example is this week’s hand.
South reaches a six-diamond contract after his partner opened a four-card suit. West leads a spade, because his partner overcalled in that suit. Would you choose to play or defend? South is obviously in danger of losing a heart trick and a club trick.
Consider the obvious play: South plays an honor from the dummy. East plays the ace, and South ruffs. South can draw trump, and, ending in dummy, lead a low heart. If East saves his ace, South wins and crosses to the club king and throws his heart loser on a high spade. He then gives up a club and makes the slam. If, however, East takes his heart ace, South will have three winners in the dummy to take care of his club losers.
If you decide to play six diamonds, East can counter by allowing dummy to win the first trick. South must take an early discard, and, whatever he tosses, the slam will fail. If you decide to defend, South can do better by playing low to the first trick. He ruffs, crosses to the dummy with a trump and leads a low heart. Again, East has to commit himself. If East plays low, South can establish a spade winner and discard his heart loser.
You should decide to play the six-diamond contract.
Donna Swan is a resident of Longboat Key, an ardent bridge player and an American Contract Bridge League certified director who plays “for the fun of it.”
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