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Bridge 4/25

He can look around the corners

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Aldous Huxley said, "There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self."
    Sometimes less capable players think that experts play as if they can look around corners. But usually it is just a matter of counting to 13, as in this deal.
    If you were South, in six no-trump, how would you plan the play? West leads the spade jack.
    East opened three hearts in the modern style. Traditionally, he would promise a decent seven-card suit and 5-10 high-card points. But when the vulnerability is favorable, a little flexibility is permitted. South overcalled a natural three no-trump. The textbook says this shows a good 15 to 18 high-card points, but he could have a stronger hand than that because a four-no-trump overcall would show a minor two-suiter, not be natural.
    You have 11 top tricks: three spades, two hearts, three diamonds and three clubs. You need a fourth club trick. And clearly, if either the clubs are splitting 3-2 or East has a singleton club honor, you will have no problems. But before leaping to that conclusion, play off dummy's heart king to confirm the 7-0 split. Then take your spade and diamond winners. What do you learn? Here, that East started with two diamonds, seven hearts and at least three spades. So, he has at most one club.
    Cash your club queen to see East's card, then lead a club toward the dummy. If West plays low, put in dummy's nine. Or, if West splits his honors, win with dummy's king, play a heart to your ace, and take the club finesse.
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