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Bridge: The odds rule most of the time

Steve Googan, an English actor, writer and producer, said, “The trick is always to write in pairs because if at least two people find it funny, you’ve immediately halved the odds of its not being funny.”

The trick is always to play bridge — whether in pairs, teams or Chicago — keeping the odds in mind. In today’s deal, what is the right way to play the heart suit for no losers?

In the auction, tournament players sitting West would have responded three diamonds, pre-emptive, showing a lot of diamonds and a weak hand. (With game-invitational values and diamond support, West would have responded two hearts, a cue-bid raise.) Then, North would not have been strong enough to advance with three hearts, and it would have been dangerous for South to balance with a takeout double when he had only two spades. As it went, South made a game-try with three clubs, which North rejected. She had good clubs, but did not like the rest of her hand.

South has four top losers: two spades and two diamonds. In isolation, the best play for no heart loser is to lead dummy’s jack, planning to run the eight on the second round, which would have worked. However, West led the diamond 10. East won with his ace and returned the suit. West won, shifted to the spade king, and played another spade. East won and led a third spade.

If West had the heart seven-doubleton, declarer had to ruff with his nine. But with this layout, he had to ruff with his five. Since West could hold two seven-doubletons and only one four-two-doubleton, South ruffed with his nine and went down one.

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