Editor's note: A syndicated bridge column by Phillip Alder runs weekdays and Sundays in the Mail Tribune. Jim Flint will fill in the gap with a new bridge column on Saturdays, beginning this week.

Flint is a duplicate bridge competitor and bridge writer living in Ashland. He competes in regional and national tournaments and is the copy editor for the regional bridge newspaper, The Trumpet.

He also writes freelance news and features for the Mail Tribune and the Ashland Daily Tidings.

A competitive auction in a recent club game resulted in the side with the boss suit, spades, prevailing.

North considered bidding on, hoping for a good match point score at down one if West can make three spades. But he liked his defensive chances with four spades to the king, so passed.

What should North lead against three spades? Should he lead a heart to make sure his side gets its heart tricks before they’re sluffed on good diamonds?

If he leads a heart, it’s smooth sailing for West. If South continues hearts, West wins with the king and leads to the king of clubs, to cut communication between East and West, afraid of diamond ruffs.

Then when West pulls trumps, it doesn’t do North any good to lead his singleton diamond after he takes his spade king. West lets it hold to preserve his entry to the diamonds. Now North can’t get to South for a diamond ruff.

If South switches to a diamond on the second trick, it’s too late. West can bring the contract home, losing a spade, a diamond ruff, a heart and a club.

North, however, had second thoughts about his opening lead. East-West didn’t bid game, so South might have two entries. If so, North could lead his singleton king, likely dead anyway, and hope for two diamond ruffs after he gets in with the king of spades.

He plunked down the diamond king, taken by the ace. West should just cash the ace of spades and lead another one, hoping for a 3-2 break in trumps. He can afford one diamond ruff but not two.

In the actual deal, when North takes his king of spades, he leads a heart to his partner for a diamond ruff. Then, since South took the first heart with the ace, denying the king, North tries a club back, which works, and he gets a second diamond ruff. Down one, for the top score.

Count to 10 before you make the opening lead. Sometimes thinking outside the box pays off.

RESULTS: First place club game winners at the Phoenix Bridge Center this past week: Nov. 1, N/S, David McKee-John Cowles; E/W, Bob Valine-Bob Scott; Oct. 31, Edwin Miller-Molly Tinsley; Oct. 30, N/S, Richard and Betty Potter; E/W, Melody Alfano-Dennis Dunn; Oct. 27, N/S, Jim Flint-Andrea Shapiro; E/W, Bob Fox-Bob Scott; Oct. 26, N/S, Harris Harper-Dell Friedman; E/W, Helen Mills-Marion Gribben. ACBL sanctioned games are held at the bridge center, 4149 S. Pacific Highway, Phoenix, weekdays at noon except 6 p.m. Tuesdays. Games are open to the public.

— Jim Flint can be reached by email at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.