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 December 28/1999




by Beverly Kraft -Eric Kokish


 Card-play technique at bridge is a complex, many-faceted subject.


 Over the years, a large number of rules have been introduced in an attempt to categorise common situations and simplify mental procedures.

 The subject of locating "missing" queens has attracted perhaps the greatest interest, with the adage "eight ever, nine never" assuming the high ground.


 With a total of nine cards between two hands and nothing else to go on we are advised that it is slightly better play to try to drop the queen; with eight cards, it is better to finesse.


 But rules are no substitute for good detective work.


 Cover the East-West hands and follow the play to the first nine tricks, then decide how to play the heart suit.

East-West vulnerable

South deals

  A J 8 6
A J 8 6
A J 8 6
  K 9 7 5 2
K 9 7 4 3
A K 6



West North East South
Pass 4NT Pass 5
Pass 5NT Pass 7
Pass 7 Pass Pass


 Opening Lead: 10


 7 is a poor contract and the fault is largely North's. With broken suits, no source of tricks and no secure follow-up plan, his Blackwood 4NT was both premature and ill-judged. When South showed one ace, North invited a grand slam by bidding five notrump. South, who did not show his void over 4NT (by jumping to 6) because he feared that North's strong bidding was based on a long club suit, had enough in reserve to accept the invitation.

 South played as follows: he won the
A, cashed the K, and A ("nine never"), both following, cashed the A, discarding a heart, ruffed a club, ruffed a diamond, and ruffed a club, East (surprisingly) discarding a diamond. When both followed to the K declarer had plenty of information.

 If you've been following the play you know that West started with two spades, seven clubs, and three diamonds.


 How should you play the hearts?

 The venerable rule worked well in the trump suit but here you know that "nine never" will not work.


 By now you know that West has one heart. You have no chance if it is the five or deuce (East will have Q10x over dummy's jack) so assume that it is the queen or ten. Lead low from hand. Your luck is in when West produces the ten. Take the ace, breathe a sigh of relief, and call for dummy's jack, running it when East follows low.

 Happy 2000, may all your plays in the new millennium be successful.

 The four hands were:


  A J 8 6
A J 8 6
A J 8 6
10 4
10 9 7
K 10 9 7 4 3 2
Q 3
Q 5 2
Q J 8 4 3 2
Q 5
  K 9 7 5 2
K 9 7 4 3
A K 6