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Bridge 4/27

Win or not to win, that is the contract

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Around 800 B.C., Hesiod wrote, "Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor."
    He should have invented bridge! Timing can be so important in our game. For example, you can win a trick or duck it. Which you do may mean the difference between contract made and contract defeated — as in this deal.
    Against three no-trump, West leads his fourth-highest spade. What happens after that?
    The auction was straightforward. South opened one no-trump, showing 15-17 points in the modern style. (A 15-17 no-trump occurs 25 percent more often than 16-18, because you will pick up 15 points 25 percent more frequently than you will get 18.) North, with a balanced hand and no major-suit length, raised to three no-trump.
    Suppose East takes dummy's spade queen with his ace and returns the nine (the higher of two remaining cards) to dummy's king. Declarer, with only eight tricks, will probably run the club 10. West can win with his queen, but cannot get more than another two tricks: the spade jack and club ace.
    Let's return to trick one and change East's play. Instead of winning with his spade ace, he plays his nine, encouraging West to continue spades when next he wins a trick. Notice the difference. West wins trick two with his club queen and plays a spade to the king and ace. Now East leads his spade two through South's 10-7 into the jaws of West's J-8. The defenders take three spades and two clubs for down one.
    With only one winner in your hand, time its use thoughtfully.
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