Subtle Differences

You wouldn't think it matters which spade today's South uses to win the first trick; but bridge is as subtle as a wine-taster's palate.

At one table of a team match, South tossed a mental coin and won with the king. He lost the diamond finesse, and East returned a spade; for all East knew, West had led from A-Q-J-10-9. South won; but after he ran the diamonds and cashed the A-K of clubs, West took the rest with the ace of hearts and good spades. Down one.

MORE SUBTLE

The other South was luckier, or perhaps more subtle: he won the first spade with the ace and lost the diamond finesse. East was still tempted to return a spade, but knew from West's lead that South had the king. Since East feared South had nine tricks ready to run, he shifted to the jack of hearts.

East would have been a hero if West's queen of clubs had been the queen of hearts; but as it was, South put up the queen of hearts, and West won. South then took four diamonds, two clubs, a heart and two spades.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S Q J 10 9 4 H A 8 5 2 D 5 2 C Q 6. Dealer, at your left, opens one spade. Your partner doubles, and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: This is the type of hand you need to pass a low-level takeout double for penalty: solid trumps and fair values. Still, partner promises heart length and may have no spades: pass if the opponents are vulnerable; but otherwise, a bid of two or three hearts is acceptable.

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

S 8 7 5

H 4

D A Q J 10 9

C K 5 4 2

WEST

S Q J 10 9 4

H A 8 5 2

D 5 2

C Q 6

EAST

S 6 3 2

H J 10 9 6 3

D K 4

C J 10 9

SOUTH dealer

S A K

H K Q 7

D 8 7 6 3

C A 8 7 3

South

1 NT

3 NT

West

Pass

All Pass

North

3 D

East

Pass

Opening lead -- S Q

Copyright 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate