ACES ON BRIDGE
“If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.”
— Pete Rose
At the Dyspeptics Club, there is little doubt (except in the minds of the players habitually sitting South and West) that the players in the North and East seats are technically more proficient than their partners, and are certainly more adept at transferring blame to their partners.
In today’s deal, North could have followed an invitational sequence rather than driving to game, but the final contract would have been the same. The play in four spades followed a predictable course over the first couple of tricks. In response to his partner’s bid, West led his doubleton heart. East won the trick with the 10 and cashed the club ace in case his partner had the king. When West followed with a small club, East took the ace and king of hearts, West discarding a small diamond. Declarer ruffed the third heart and finessed in trumps, and when they behaved, he took the rest.
South remarked complacently that he had followed the only chance for his contract, and North, who had been supervising proceedings carefully, commented drily that he was lucky to have been given that chance. Neither East nor West rose to the bait, but can you see what he meant?
When East discovered his partner did not have the club king, he should have cashed a second high heart and continued with a low heart, persuading West to ruff in with his precious five of trumps. That forces an honor from dummy and gives East an eventual trump trick.
ANSWER: Typically, opener tries to find a second call in this auction, but is more inclined to do so when short in hearts. With three small hearts, you must assume partner is weak rather than having a penalty double of hearts, and he’s certainly not going to have spades. Everything points toward passing now, since heart length is so unlikely in light of your own holding in that suit.