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Bridge 10/20

Get the opponents to give you a hand

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, "When ideas fail, words come in very handy."
    At the bridge table, those words must be kept inside your mind. If you have no idea how to play your contract, talking aloud will not help — or even be permitted by most opponents. You must continue talking to yourself inside your head, hoping that an insightful idea will form.
    In this deal, you are in four hearts. West leads the spade jack to your ace. What would be your line of play?
    North's three-heart response is a limit raise, promising eight losers (here, two spades, one heart, three diamonds and two clubs) and 10-12 support points (here, 10 in high cards and one for the doubleton spade). South has too many losers to contemplate a slam.
    You have nine top tricks: three spades, five hearts and one club. You could try for two club tricks by leading toward your queen. You could also hope to get a diamond trick. But if you have to play on diamonds, you will normally lose three tricks in the suit. Instead, call on those friendly opponents to help you.
    Draw trumps, cash the other two top spades, discarding a club from the board, then play a club to the ace and another club. Whoever wins the trick will be endplayed. If he leads a spade or a club, you ruff on the board for your extra trick, discarding a diamond loser from your hand. If he breaks open diamonds, you play second hand low and must score a trick in the suit.
    Whenever you have Q-x-x opposite J-x-x, try to force an opponent to lead the suit.
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