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Bridge 2/28

When third hand high is wrong

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In the movie "Naughty Nineties," Bud Abbott says, "Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third."
Lou Costello responds, "That's what I want to find out."
This week, we are looking at third-base's play. The old adage "third hand high" is right most of the time. But there are occasions when it is definitely not right. This deal highlights one.
    First, though, what do you think of the auction?
Stayman is great when it uncovers a 4-4 major-suit fit and that contract is better than one in no-trump. When you do not find a 4-4 fit, though, you have given the defenders extra information about the declarer's hand. Here, with such a strong doubleton, North should respond three no-trump, not two clubs.
    Against three no-trump, West leads his fourth-highest heart. What should East play?
    When third hand's highest card is an eight or lower, he should give count. With an odd number of cards, he plays his lowest; with an even number, he starts an echo (high-low). So East plays his heart two. (Not covering dummy's six will make absolutely no difference to the number of tricks taken in this suit by either side.)
    Declarer wins with his jack, plays a spade to dummy's queen, and runs the diamond 10. West, knowing declarer has a doubleton heart (it cannot be four, because he denied a four-card major in the auction -- curse that Stayman!), wins with his king and puts the heart ace onto the table: down one.
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