May 20, 2023 – The Mercury News

“Simple Saturday” columns focus on basic technique and logical thinking.

Beginners are taught to “return partner’s lead.” Indeed, not doing so is a near-felony. A shift is perilous: If you return partner’s lead and it doesn’t work well, unlucky; but if you switch and that’s wrong, he may want to stake you to an anthill.

Today’s West led the queen of spades against 3NT, and East correctly overtook with the king to get out of his partner’s way. South played low. Since East wanted to avoid recriminations, he returned his last spade.


South won, lost a club finesse to East’s king, won a diamond shift and lost a heart finesse. He won the next diamond and had nine tricks.

East should see that returning West’s lead is futile. West can’t have an entry to his spades; the deck doesn’t have enough points. But if East shifts to a diamond at Trick Two (hoping West has the jack), careful defense beats the contract. East has the entries to set up and cash his own long suit.


You hold: S A 7 3 H Q J 10 5 D A K 8 C J 10 8. Your partner opens one heart, and you respond 2NT (a conventional forcing raise). He then bids three spades. What do you say?

ANSWER: After your 2NT, partner’s three spades shows a spade singleton. The idea is to let you judge whether you have useful honors opposite his singleton. Here, the K-Q of spades would be wasted, but your ace is ideal. Cue-bid four diamonds to encourage slam. He may hold 2,AK972,Q54,A953.

South dealer

N-S vulnerable


S 6 5 4

H A 7 6

D 9 7 2

C A Q 9 7


S Q J 10 9 8

H 4 3 2

D J 5

C 4 3 2


S K 2

H K 9 8

D Q 10 6 4 3

C K 6 5


S A 7 3

H Q J 10 5

D A K 8

C J 10 8

South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass
Opening lead — S Q

©2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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