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Sacrificing may be cheap or expensive

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Posted: October 4, 2006 5:11 p.m.
Updated: October 12, 2006 3:18 p.m.
Novelist and screenwriter Rita Mae Brown claimed: "For you to be successful, sacrifices must be made. It's better that they are made by others, but failing that, you'll have to make them yourself."
    Occasionally, we sacrifice at the bridge table, especially when nonvulnerable against vulnerable opponents. We hope to concede fewer points than the opponents would have received for their highest-scoring contract.
    Considering how the opponents would have done is important when you have sacrificed -- as in this deal from a pair event in Anaheim, Calif., a few years ago.
North's three-spade jump was pre-emptive, showing four-card support and a weak hand. (With game-invitational values, he would have cue-bid three hearts.) West passed to let his partner judge whether to bid higher or to double, and East went for the penalty.
    Against four spades doubled, West led the club king. The defenders took three clubs and two diamonds before playing a third diamond. South ruffed, cashed his spade ace, led a heart to the ace on the board, and -- despite "eight ever, nine nearly never" -- ran the spade jack. Why?
    The double implied that East would have the spade queen, but if trumps were breaking 2-2, four spades was a phantom sacrifice, North and South having four top tricks: two spades and two hearts. If the spades were 3-1, though, the sacrifice would be good business, costing 300 for down two against 420 for four hearts bid and made. Hence South's taking the spade finesse.
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