bridge 4-8

When you hear the word “split,” what do you think about?

If you are particularly lithe, you may imagine doing the splits. If you are a 10-pin bowler, you will hope never to face a 7-10 split. Perhaps you live in a split-level house.

A good bridge player worries about suit splits and how to overcome bad ones. In today’s deal, for example, how should South play his trump suit in four hearts for at most one loser?

In the auction, South was tempted to rebid three no-trump with his strong, balanced hand. But if he had, North would surely have passed, and declarer would probably have lost three clubs, one diamond and one heart.

In four hearts, South has one loser in each minor, so he can afford only one trump loser, not two. Yes, perhaps he should drive out the diamond ace first, but let’s just worry about the trump suit.

If the five missing hearts are splitting 3-2, there will not be a problem. If they are 5-0, the contract will fail. So declarer should consider 4-1 splits.

If West has queen-jack-fourth, the contract is going down. But handling queen-jack-fourth in the East hand is manageable, given the useful nine and 10.

The correct play is for South to cash his heart ace (or king) first. Then, he should lead a low heart toward dummy’s 10. Here, East takes the trick, but South gets to the board in spades and plays a heart to his nine.

If you worked out the best play, treat yourself to a banana split.

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