Both sides vulnerable

NORTH (N)

{spade} A 5 2

{heart} K J 2

{diam} K Q 10 9 6

{club} A Q

WEST

{spade} J 10 9 7 4

{heart} 8 4 3

{diam} A 5 3

{club} 8 5

EAST

{spade} K 6

{heart} A Q 7 5

{diam} 7 4

{club} 9 7 6 4 2

SOUTH

{spade} Q 8 3

{heart} 10 9 6

{diam} J 8 2

{club} K J 10 3

The bidding: NorthEast SouthWest1 {diam} Pass1 NTPass

3 NT All Pass Opening lead: {spade} J

When I lecture on defensive play, I hate to pump my audience full of hard and fast rules. The problem is that many bridge "rules" are hard and few are fast.

In today's deal, dummy played low on the first spade, and East took the king and returned a spade. South won with the queen and forced out West's ace of diamonds. West then shifted to a heart: jack, queen. East cashed the ace of hearts for the defensive book, but South took the rest, scoring game.

"I had to return your lead, didn't I?" East asked.

Returning partner's lead is a rule to some players. It's not a hard rule to follow, but neither should it be fast. East knows South had fewer than four hearts since he didn't respond one heart, and East must hope West has one entry for the defense to have a chance. East should therefore shift to a low heart at Trick Two.

South wins and leads a diamond, but when West takes the ace, he leads another heart, and East defeats the contract with three heart tricks.

Daily Question

You hold:

{spade} K 6 {heart} A Q 7 5 {diam} 7 4 {club} 9 7 6 4 2.

Dealer, at your right, opens one spade. You pass, the next player raises to two spades, and your partner doubles. Opening bidder passes. What do you say?

Answer: Your partner has a good hand to climb into the middle of the auction, and you have a well-placed king of spades and good hearts. Jump to four hearts. You'd bid three hearts with nothing, but your actual hand may offer a play for game.

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