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Phillip Alder: Keep those points firmly in mind

Phillip Alder • Updated Sep 16, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Virginia Woolf wrote, “On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”

Just in case you thought tracking high-card points is no longer an agonizing necessity, take a look at this deal. What happens in three no-trump after West leads a top-of-nothing spade nine?

North might have raised immediately to three no-trump because he had a bolster in his doubleton. But if a 4-4 heart fit existed, game in that strain could well have been preferable to three no-trump.

South starts with eight top tricks: three spades, four diamonds and one club. He will presumably run the club queen at trick two. Then the spotlight is on East. He must count up the points. He has 8, dummy holds 12, and declarer has promised 15-17. So, West has 3-5. What one useful card might he hold?

The diamond ace is ineffective. However, the heart ace would be ideal. East should take the second trick and shift to the heart two. Here, everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. West takes that trick and returns a heart to give the defenders one club and four hearts.

Did you notice that declarer has an interesting play available, although not without some risk? Suppose, at trick two, that he leads a heart! To defeat the contract then, either West must put up his ace and lead his second heart (which would be almost impossible to find), or if East wins the trick, he must return the heart two (which is also tough).

Sometimes, when in no-trump, leading your weakest suit can deceive the opponents to your benefit.

Phillip Alder is a longtime New York Times bridge columnist and has taught competitive and recreational bridge to people and teams at all levels for more than 30 years.

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