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Bridge 9/12

Muddled thinking by a defender

    Late last year there was a Moderately Confused cartoon by Jeff Stahler in which a husband is sitting in a chair looking at a newspaper with his wife standing behind him. The husband asks the wife, "What is a nine-letter word that begins with the number three?" What is the wife's reply?
    You usually have to think clearly to solve any problem. This deal contains a defensive challenge. Look at only the West and North hands. Against three no-trump, West leads the spade queen: two, three, ace. Declarer plays on diamonds. West takes the second round, East playing high-low to show an even number of diamonds. What should West do now?
    That North hand, with its excellent five-card suit, is worth at least 19 points.
    At the table, West continued with the spade eight. (When you lead from a sequence, start with the top card, then play the bottom one next.) However, South won with his king and claimed nine tricks: two spades, three hearts and four diamonds.
    West did not pay proper attention to his partner's card at trick one. If East had the spade king, he would have either played it, to clarify the situation for West, or signaled with a high spot-card. Also, if South had only the spade ace, he probably would have made a holdup play. And if South held the spade king, he had nine winners established.
    The only chance was to find East with at least A-J-10-fifth or A-J-9-sixth of clubs. West should have shifted to the club queen.
    In the cartoon, the wife replies, "That's a sudoku, not a crossword puzzle."

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