ACES ON BRIDGE
Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.
— Carl Sandburg Against your six-club contract, West leads the diamond three to East’s ace, and East returns a diamond to your king. You can try the heart finesse for the 12th trick. Is there anything better?
There is, indeed. You must make the most of your coming discard on the diamonds. Your best play at trick three is to cash two of your high trumps from hand. Then, cross to the trump honor in dummy, cash the heart king and ace, and discard your losing heart on dummy’s diamond queen. Finally, ruff a heart in hand and lead a spade to the board to discard your spade loser on the established hearts.
This line of play is a real improvement over relying on the heart queen to be onside. It negotiates all the 3-2 heart splits and also succeeds when the queen is singleton.
This is considerably better than the straightforward heart finesse, which is only a 50 percent chance, plus the slight chance of a singleton queen offside. On average, a suit will break 3-2 about two-thirds of the time, and when there is a singleton queen, that ups the odds for this line even further.
Incidentally, you will note that had the defenders shifted to a spade at trick two, that removes dummy’s late entry. Declarer must lead two high trumps from hand, then cash the two top hearts, take his discard, ruff a heart high and go back to the club king to obtain his discards. ANSWER: The rebid of one no-trump here does not promise the moon in the way of spade guards — you may occasionally have to make the call with three small, so by comparison, you are positively over-endowed in spade stoppers. You would rather not introduce a three-card suit if you can help it, especially when you have a good practical alternative.