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Bridge 7/13

A superstitious day for an unlucky deal

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Posted: July 12, 2007 4:18 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    John Gunther, a journalist and an author who died in 1970, pointed out that Count Hermann Keyserling (founder of the School of Wisdom in 1920) once said that the greatest American superstition was belief in facts.
    For the superstitious today is the second and last Friday the 13th of the year. Most players who, after a deal, say that they were unlucky were not. Under the microscope, they misplayed or misdefended.
    In this deal, South is in three no-trump. West leads his fourth-highest spade to East's ace, and the spade two comes flying back. How should South plan the play?
    At trick two, the original declarer finessed his spade jack, West winning with his queen and clearing the suit.
    South ran the club suit, bringing everyone down to five cards, but West discarded well, keeping two spades and in tempo blanking his heart king. When declarer then tried the heart finesse, West took the trick and cashed two spades for down one.
    "Sorry," said South. "Maybe I should have guessed that West had come down to a singleton heart king." Do you agree?
    Unless West has made a strange lead from a short suit, East's spade-two return at trick two indicates that West started with a five-card suit. (With two spades remaining, East would return his higher card.) So, the contract is safe if South wins the second trick with his spade king, runs his clubs, then calls for dummy's spade nine. West may take his three tricks in the suit, but must then lead into one of declarer's red-suit holdings, conceding a ninth trick.
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