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Bridge 1/13

You have two lines, if you see them

The Senior Life Master was ready to start his next lesson. With snowflakes blowing in a strong, biting wind, outdoor activities had lost their appeal, so the room was packed.
    "When you are declaring," began the SLM, "obviously you want to take the best line of play. But try to have a backup plan available in case the distribution suddenly turns nasty."
    Look at the North-South hands in my first diagram (continued the SLM). How would you play in three no-trump after West leads the heart queen?
    The original declarer (resumed the SLM after a pause) could see eight top tricks: four ace-king combinations. The ninth winner would have to come from spades or clubs. And South knew that 3-2 clubs was almost twice as likely as 3-3 spades — 67.8 percent vs. 35.53 percent. Also, remembering that if one must lose a trick to establish a suit in no-trump, it is usually best to lose it quickly, declarer won the first trick and played a low club from both hands. West won and persevered with the heart nine. South ducked, won the next heart, and cashed his club king. East's diamond-queen discard was a painful blow. The contract could no longer be made.
    If the spade ace were in the South hand, this play would have been sensible. Here, though, declarer should have taken his club king and played a club to dummy's ace. If the missing clubs split 3-2, South would play a third club and take at least 10 tricks. But when East pitches, South turns to spades, ducking a round there. And when they do divide 3-3, the contract is revived.

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