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Bridge 1227

Percentages usually outweigh feelings

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Posted: December 26, 2006 7:33 p.m.
Updated: January 10, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    Doctor and botanist Jacob Bigelow wrote, “It is common error to infer that things which are consecutive in order of time have necessarily the relation of cause and effect.”
    At the bridge table, we draw inferences from our opponents’ and partner’s calls and plays. We ought to be able to trust those deductions from partner’s actions. (If not, it is time to get a new partner!) Drawing conclusions from the opponents is less reliable, because they might be trying to mislead you. But most of the time their play will be trustworthy, because each will be afraid that a falsecard might fatally mislead his partner.
    In this deal, South was in six spades. West promptly led the heart ace and continued with another heart. What should the declarer have done next?
    In the auction, South adopted a pedestrian but practical approach. The contract rated to be at worst on a finesse.
    The original declarer thought that West, because he led quickly, could see what he thought was a second defensive trick. This could be only the spade king. So South laid down his spade ace ... and conceded down one when West discarded.
    In general I approve of following one’s feelings, but not when they go so against the odds. The chance that West will have a singleton spade king is only 13 percent. East will have the spade king 50 percent of the time, nearly four times more often. Declarer should have taken the spade finesse (twice, when the 3-0 split comes to light) and made his slam.
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