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Bridge 1/5

High is often bad, but sometimes good

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Peter McWilliams wrote, "I'm a confirmed negaholic. I don't just see a glass that's half-full and call it half-empty; I see a glass that's completely full and worry that someone's going to tip it over."
    Bridge players sometimes feel like that when on defense. If partner has to find a critical play, it can be nerve-racking while you wait to see whether he tips the defense onto the floor or into a plus score.
    In this deal, how should the defenders play to defeat four spades after West leads a low club?
    North's three-spade response was a game-invitational limit raise. It promised eight losers (two spades, three hearts, two diamonds and one club) and 10-12 total points (eight in high cards and three for the singleton club because of the known nine-card fit).
    East wins with his club king and clearly must shift to a heart. And here is the first critical play. Since East has no honor in hearts, he leads the seven, top of nothing.
    South will presumably play his heart king. Now comes the second chance to keep the wine in the glass. West should realize that South has the king and queen of hearts. So West, if he wins the second trick, cannot return a heart without losing a trick in the suit. West must duck, playing his eight.
    Declarer will draw trumps. West should play the nine before the four as a suit-preference signal for hearts. Then South will attack diamonds. East gets in with his king and leads a second heart, giving the defenders two hearts, one diamond and one club. Cheers!
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