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Bridge 12/13
To declare, take your four-by-four
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    Most deals feature standard card-play techniques: count winners, count losers, establish tricks, gain trump tricks by ruffing, and so on. But the deals that sort the women out from the girls are those requiring more specialized handling. Englishman David Bird has put a good selection of these into "Off-Road Declarer Play" (Master Point Press).
    The book contains 14 chapters covering various topics like surviving a 4-1 trump break and using a side suit as substitute trumps. Each section ends with a two- or four-question quiz so that you can check you have the idea.
    Using a side suit as a substitute for your trump suit almost sounds like a paradox. Well, here is one of the deals from that chapter. How would you plan the play in six spades? West leads the diamond king, then plays a second diamond, which you ruff low on the board. You cash the ace and king of spades, but West pitches a club on the second. How would you continue?
    After West opens with a modern weak three-bid, North makes a takeout double, then launches Roman Key Card Blackwood. South shows no key card (no ace or the spade king) with his five-club bid, then reveals the trump queen but no side-suit king with five no-trump.
    If you take the spade jack at trick four, you have no way to reach your hand to extract East's last spade.
    Instead, start to run dummy's hearts. When East ruffs, overruff with your spade queen, play a trump to dummy's jack, and claim.
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