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Bridge 0102

Back and forth with care

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    Lawrence Bixby claimed: “Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too.”
    You bid to a good contract, but the distribution is unfavorable — not that you know it immediately unless an opponent holds his cards carelessly. Still, you should try to prepare for the worst.
    Here, you are in six hearts. If you do not throw over two tricks, you and your partner — and your horse? — will be very happy. West leads the spade nine. East wins with his ace and returns the spade two to your king. You cash the heart ace, but West discards a spade. How would you continue?
    South opened two no-trump, showing 20-22 points. North’s three-diamond response was a transfer bid promising at least five hearts. South jumped to four hearts to announce his four-card support. And North bid what he hoped his partner could make.
    Relying on the club finesse is risky and — because this is a newspaper column — fails. It also looks tempting to ruff your club losers on the board, but that does not work either. Instead, remember that a ruff in the shorter trump hand is an extra trick. Ruff dummy’s two low diamonds in your hand.
    Play a diamond to dummy’s king, cash the diamond ace, and ruff a diamond. Take the club ace, ruff a club low on the board, trump the remaining diamond with your heart king, draw trumps, and claim. You capture two spades, five hearts, two diamonds, one club, and two diamond ruffs in your hand.
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