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Bridge 11/08

Count losers first, then count winners

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Posted: November 7, 2007 3:09 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2007 5:01 a.m.
    M. Grundler said, "It's easy to identify people who can't count to 10. They're in front of you in the supermarket express lane."
    Or, in some supermarkets, that would be 12. When you are the declarer at the bridge table, though, you may need to count to any number from seven to 13. In this deal, it is 10. How would you try to make four hearts after West leads the spade queen?
    West might have made a takeout double over one heart. His distribution was ideal, but his point-count was about four points lower than his partner would have expected. And the vulnerability was unfavorable.
    North's three-heart response was a game-invitation limit raise, showing 10-12 support points and eight losers. You momentarily thought about a slam, but your hand had too many losers.
    You might lose one heart and three clubs. But you have 10 winners in two spades, four hearts and four diamonds. What is the danger?
    That East gets on lead and pushes a high club through your king, West having the ace.
    How might East get on play?
    Only in hearts. So, throw out the percentage tables. Win with your spade king, cash the heart ace, cross to dummy with a spade, and run the heart jack.
    If this loses to West's original doubleton queen, your contract is safe because he cannot attack clubs with effect. Here, though, you bag an overtrick.
    Note that if you cash your two top hearts, then turn to the diamonds, East ruffs the third round and shifts to the club queen, giving the defense four tricks.
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