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Phillip Alder: Two eight-carders, two approaches

Phillip Alder • Updated Sep 23, 2018 at 3:00 PM

When we have two eight-card fits, we tend to lean toward the one in a major because it scores more. That is particularly true for regular duplicate players. However, if the extra points are not really that important, usually you wish to pick the stronger suit, the one that includes the trump jack. But that is often easier said than bid.

In today’s deal, how should declarer play in seven diamonds or in six spades after a heart lead?

In the auction, South’s two-heart rebid was fourth-suit game-forcing.

Seven diamonds looks like the best contract, having no obvious losers, but it has only 11 top tricks: three spades, five diamonds and three clubs. The right line seems to be to ruff the heart lead and draw two rounds of trumps ending in the South hand. If everyone follows, ruff a heart, cross to the club queen, ruff the last heart, play a spade to the ace, draw the final trump and claim. It is a textbook dummy reversal. But if trumps break 4-1, draw trumps and hope that either one black suit splits 3-3, or the same opponent has length in both black suits and is squeezed.

In seven spades, you would need to find spades 3-3; but in six spades, you should be willing to lose an early trump trick. After ruffing the heart ace, lead a trump from the board and play low from your hand. You can win whatever comes back, draw trumps and claim.

Finally, note that if you immediately draw two rounds of trumps, you go down here.

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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