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Bridge 2/9

Avoid the lead that is avoidable

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John Keats wrote, "Don't be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid."
    That is an excellent approach to both life and bridge. On this deal, many would go down in three no-trump, but one hopes they would then learn from their error. If you were the declarer, what would you do after West leads the spade six: two, 10, jack?
    In the auction, North was right not to introduce his minor suit, because he had a balanced hand and the values for only a game, not a slam.
    You start with seven top tricks: one spade (trick one), three hearts, one diamond and two clubs. Clearly you will play on clubs to establish the extra winners that you require. And taking the club suit in isolation, the percentage play is to cash the king, then to run the 10 through West. Here, though, that highway leads to failure, not success. East gets in with his club queen and pushes a spade through your king into the jaws of West's A-Q.
    Instead, you must keep East from ever gaining the lead. At trick two, play a low heart to dummy's jack. Then, run the club seven through East. If the finesse lost because West had the queen, he could not hurt you, and you would collect at least nine tricks. Here, though, the club finesse wins. You continue with a club to your 10 and eventually rake in an overtrick.
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