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Bridge 4/14
Lose what you must, gain what you need
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Harry S. Truman said, "It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours."
    It can also be depressing when you go down at the bridge table. But sometimes you can keep your partnership's spirits elevated by bringing home the tricks you need for your contract.
    In this deal, you are South, in three no-trump. West leads his fourth-highest diamond. You play low from the board, but annoyingly East wins with his king and returns a diamond to dummy's ace. How would you continue?
    South's sequence shows a minimum balanced hand with five hearts. North raises to three no-trump because he knows that taking nine tricks in no-trump is usually easier than raking in 11 in a minor. (Note that five clubs should lose three tricks: one spade, one diamond and one club.)
    You have five top tricks (immediate winners): two hearts, two diamonds and one club. Clearly you must play on clubs. But if East has the spade ace, you have no dummy entry left. Also, the defenders must win at least one club trick whatever the lie of the suit. So give them that trick as soon as possible. At trick three, lead a low club from the board.
    Presumably West will take the trick and play another diamond, but you win with your queen and lead your remaining club, claiming nine tricks when West's king appears. (If West had played a different second club, you would have finessed the queen, hoping for the best.)
    In no-trump, lose the tricks that you must lose as quickly as possible.
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