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ON BRIDGE

Nobody knows what happens if an irresistible force meets an immovable object. What if two "inviolable" bridge ideas clash?

South took the jack of hearts, led a spade to his hand and tried a diamond to the king. Which rule should East observe? Win immediately to return West's lead, or duck to make it harder for South to use the diamonds?

The actual East couldn't resist taking the ace to shoot back a heart. South won, conceded a diamond, won the next heart, led a spade to dummy and ran the diamonds, winning four diamonds, three spades and three hearts.

"If I refuse the first diamond," East said, "he can't use the diamonds. But the first rule against notrump is to return partner's lead."

East's argument leaves me unmoved. Even if West's hearts are A-Q-9-5-2, East can afford to duck the first diamond. If West's hearts are weaker, East must focus on shutting out dummy's suit. Yes, South always makes three no trump by leading a low diamond from dummy at Trick Two.

You hold: J 5 4 3 8 6 3 A J 9 K 10 9. Your partner opens two no trump, promising 21 or 22 points, and the next player passes. What do you say?

A: Bid three no trump. A response of three clubs (Stayman Convention) would ask partner to bid a major suit of four cards, but this is not a good time to look for a 4-4 spade fit. You have balanced distribution and plenty of high-card strength for three no trump, but a bad trump break might sink four spades.

South dealer

Both sides vulnerable
NORTH
K 10 6
J 10
K Q 7 6 5 2
Q 4
WEST
9 7 2
Q 9 7 5 2
10 3
A 8 7
EAST
J 5 4 3
8 6 3
A J 9
K 10 9
SOUTH
A Q 8
A K 4
8 4
J 6 5 3 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 NT Pass
3 NT All Pass
Opening lead -- 5

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