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Bridge 3/3

Get those stoppers out of his hand

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Posted: March 2, 2007 4:50 p.m.
Updated: March 17, 2007 5:00 a.m.
Knute Rockne, a famed Notre Dame football coach born in Norway, said, "Drink the first. Sip the second slowly. Skip the third."
    We have been looking at third-hand play, and today's deal features one of its most important aspects.
    Look at the North and East hands. After North opens one diamond, you overcall one heart. South responds one no-trump, and North raises to three no-trump. Your partner leads the heart nine. How would you plan the defense?
    South should respond one no-trump, not two diamonds. His heart values have been increased by East's overcall, and it is usually easier to win nine tricks in no-trump than 11 in a minor.
    The opening lead marks South with the king and jack of hearts. And if South has four hearts, the contract is probably impregnable. So you should assume that South has only three hearts. Then remember the key point: When you are trying to establish a suit in which declarer has two stoppers, you should drive them out as quickly as possible. Trick one isn't too early to dislodge the first -- play your heart seven (or 10).
    Declarer can win three spades, two hearts and three clubs, so must establish one diamond. But after West wins trick two with his diamond king, he returns his second heart, establishing your suit while you still have the diamond ace as an entry. Note, though, that if you play third hand high, winning the first trick with your heart ace and returning a heart, West will have no heart to lead when in with his diamond king, and the contract will make with an overtrick.
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