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Bridge: What is the role of that card?

Jane Goodall said, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”

A bridge player might add the word “card” after each “individual.” However, sometimes the role of a particular card may be difficult to discern.

In this deal, South is in four spades. West leads the club king. How should declarer plan the play? What is the role of South’s heart king?

South opens two clubs, strong, artificial and forcing. His hand is a minimum because, when unbalanced, opener will usually have at least nine winners. This hand has only eight and a half: five spades, two diamonds, one club and half a heart. But it is a sensible opening bid. However, when North raises spades, promising some points, South has to settle for four spades to announce his minimum. If North has a good hand, he can bid higher.

When dummy tables with the spade ace, declarer has nine tricks. Probably his first thought is that he needs East to have the heart ace. Then, after getting to dummy with a trump, a heart lead through East would generate a trick for South’s king.

Here, though, you will notice that West has the heart ace. What can South do?

Declarer must realize that the heart king is a red herring. He should play to ruff a heart on the board, which generates a seventh trump trick. He takes the first trick (otherwise, West might shift to a trump) and plays a heart. When South wins the next trick, he leads another heart. And in a moment, declarer gains that key ruff.

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