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Bridge 9/15

Faint spades never won fair slam bonus

    In the 1973 movie "Robin Hood," the hero quotes an old proverb: "Faint hearts never won fair lady."
    Bridge is not a game for cowards, either. If an opponent pre-empts, sometimes you will have to gird your loins and hope for the best.
    In this deal, after North opens one club and East overcalls with a truly irritating four hearts, South could settle for four spades and a sure plus score -- and win the wimp of the year award! If East has good hearts, North has most, if not all, of his points outside that suit -- which will mesh well with South's hand. South should wheel out Blackwood. And when North admits to a brace of aces, South asks about kings with five no-trump. Opposite one king, South settles for six spades.
    Now move into South's chair. How would you plan the play after West leads the heart two?
    You have 11 top tricks: six spades, one heart, one diamond and three clubs. At first glance, it looks as though you need one of the two diamond finesses to work. But whenever you have this suit combination (or A-Q-9 opposite low cards), think elimination and endplay.
    Win with dummy's heart ace, draw trumps, play a club to the dummy, ruff a heart in your hand, return to dummy with a club, trump the last heart, and go over to the final club honor. With the hearts and clubs eliminated, play a diamond to your 10 (or queen). West wins with his jack (or king) but must either lead back into your diamond tenace or concede a ruff-and-sluff. Whichever he chooses, you're home.

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