Harry Vardon, the groundbreaking English golfer, said, “More matches are lost through carelessness at the beginning than any other cause.”

If you are about to compete in a bridge tournament or for money, it would be a good idea for you and your partner to practice on a couple of deals just before start time.

It is easy for declarer to be careless near the beginning of this deal. How should South play in three no-trump after West leads a fourth-highest club six to the 10 and jack?

North’s three-club rebid was New Minor Forcing. He was hoping his partner could show three-card heart support. However, when South indicated only a doubleton heart, North signed off in three no-trump.

South starts with eight top tricks: three spades, one heart, three diamonds and one club (at trick one). He can get the extra winner from either red suit – but which should he attack first?

Most players would realize that taking the heart finesse is too dangerous. If it loses, East will return a club through South’s king and into the jaws of West’s ace-queen. Here, West would take four tricks in that suit to defeat the contract.

Instead, many declarers would play a diamond to dummy’s ace and return a diamond to their king – and suddenly find that they could no longer make the contract. East would gain the lead in one red suit or the other.

South should take a safety finesse, covering dummy’s diamond nine with his 10. Here, declarer would end with an overtrick. But even if West could take the trick, the contract would be safe.

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