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Bridge 5/11
Step carefully through the tulips
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    The Marquise du Defend, Marie De Vichy-Chaconne, in a 1763 letter to her husband, wrote, "It is only the first step that is difficult."
    A marathon runner would not agree with that, but at the bridge table, the first step can be the hardest -- making the right play at trick one.
    In this deal, you are East, defending against three no-trump. Your partner leads the heart six, fourth-highest from his longest and strongest. What key role do you have?
    North should jump to three no-trump. Treat a singleton king like a doubleton, not a singleton.
When West leads his fourth-highest heart, you (East) should apply the Rule of Eleven. Six from 11 gives five. So, in the dummy, your hand, and declarer's hand combined there are five hearts higher than the six. You can see four of them: dummy's king and your trio. South can have only one high heart, which is surely the 10 because if West had started with 10-9-7-6-x of hearts, he would have led the 10, not the six.
    Under dummy's heart king, you must play your queen. This tells partner about your queen and jack, allowing him to underlead the ace on the next round, and it unblocks the suit. (The queen cannot be a singleton, because that would give South six hearts.)
    Declarer will immediately take the losing diamond finesse, whereupon your side can take four heart tricks -- but only if you unblocked the queen at trick one.
    When the opening lead is a fourth-highest five, six or seven, third hand and declarer should apply the Rule of Eleven. It will usually be of benefit to one of them.

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