ACES ON BRIDGE
In today’s deal, South could not bear to conceal his five-card major on his first turn. West’s cue-bid of two hearts showed 5-5 in spades and a minor, and now South tried to make up for lost time by rebidding three no-trump on his next turn. North read him as having a far stronger hand than this and leapt to six hearts, a contract that would have been easy had South held a doubleton in diamonds rather than spades. As it was, though, slam was very tricky to play after a spade lead, since the diamond king was surely going to be offside. Can you spot declarer’s best chance?
Declarer should win the spade lead and draw only two rounds of trumps with the ace and queen. Then he must rely on four rounds of clubs standing up — almost a given, since the two-suited overcall means West can hardly hold more than two clubs. After pitching a spade on the fourth club, South can ruff a spade to hand, draw the last trump with the heart king, and reduce to a four-card ending where he has three diamonds and a trump in each hand.
Now he can lead the diamond nine from dummy, planning to let it run to West to endplay that player. If East holds one of the jack or 10 of diamonds, he will be at liberty to cover the nine, but South can play the queen. Though West can win with the king, he must next lead back a diamond, and dummy’s eight will win the trick. ANSWER: I’m sure many of my readers are saying, “I bid one no-trump; what is the problem?” That is the right answer, but bear in mind that in balancing seat, the range for this call is not 15-17. The range is 11-15 (give or take a point or two — slightly less over a minor-suit opening). You can’t afford to sell out cheaply in these positions, which in turn means that you would need to double and bid no-trump with 16-18 HCP.