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Bridge: The lead you do not want

Alexander Smith, a 19th-century Scottish poet, said, "Everything is sweetened by risk."

Not when you are a declarer! Then, you should aim to make your contract without risk.

However, declarer usually faces various dangers. In today's deal, he must work to keep a particular opponent off the lead.

South cruises into four spades. West, who overcalled in clubs, leads the diamond king. After East signals with the jack, how should declarer plan the play?

In the modern style, North responded three spades, showing a weak hand with four-card spade support. With a game-invitational hand, North would have cue-bid three clubs. This is a good idea because it allows responder to bid both constructively and obstructively.

Declarer starts with nine top tricks (six spades, two hearts and one diamond) and hopes to establish dummy's heart suit. But he is in danger of losing four tricks: one heart, one diamond and two clubs. However, he risks losing those two clubs only if East gains lead.

South must duck at the first trick -- avoidance play number one. East's careful play of the diamond jack indicates that he also has the 10, a potential entry card.

Then, after taking the second trick with his diamond ace, declarer draws trumps ending on the board and leads a low heart to his 10 -- avoidance play number two. West wins with his queen, but cannot do better than cash the club ace to stop an overtrick.

Note that if South takes the first trick or plays off three rounds of hearts, East gets on lead to push a club through South's king.

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