ACES ON BRIDGE
Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.
— Boris Pasternak
Fans of Dave Barry’s side-splitting column will no doubt be familiar with his use of a submission coming from “an alert reader” — which usually precedes a tall but true tale.
In this case, our alert reader is Ira Herman, who gave this splendid take on an old theme, but one with a surprising tweak. After North opens four clubs to show a strong heart pre-empt, you declare four hearts on the lead of the club king. Plan the play.
At the table, South did what the majority of declarers would surely have done, escaping punishment thanks to a careless defense. He pitched a diamond on the club ace, then led a heart toward dummy’s honors.
All East had to do was win the heart ace and play the diamond king and another diamond to West’s ace for a third diamond to promote East’s heart 10.
West, however, failed to complete the killing play, and declarer emerged relatively unscathed, with only his pride damaged. How should he have done better?
Declarer should have played a second club at trick two to pitch a diamond. This might, I admit, expose you to a ruff against a 5-1 diamond break, but the actual danger from the 4-2 diamond break is surely far higher.
Once you pitch a diamond from dummy, the defenders’ communications are irreparably cut. You cannot be prevented from crossing to hand with the spade king to lead a heart in due course, and from that point you can be assured of making 10 tricks.
ANSWER: You can make a solid case for redoubling, but the problem comes when opponents bid and raise hearts. How do you describe your hand now? Bidding spades would overstate the suit, but passing might lose it altogether. I’d settle for a simple onespade call, planning to double a heart bid (for takeout, since this is an agreed suit) if the opponents make one.