ACES ON BRIDGE
O! What authority and show of truth Can cunning sin cover itself withal! — William Shakespeare South’s opening bid of one no-trump makes it easy for North to bid game. If North’s five-card suit were a major, he might transfer, but since it is a minor, he should raise to game in no-trump.
South is relieved to see a heart opening lead, since the defense has not gone after his weak point, spades. Nonetheless, declarer has to plan what might happen if the defenders get on lead early in the deal. South will win just four club tricks if the club finesse loses; if that is the case, he will need to make something out of the diamonds to bring home his contract.
If South tackles clubs at once, East may see he should win and shift to spades. Then when South goes after diamonds, East will win and cash his spades.
One possible way to avoid this revolting development is for declarer to win the first trick in dummy and go after diamonds immediately. If East has the diamond ace, he might play low on the first round of the suit — even if he shouldn’t.
What is more, if East does fly up with the diamond ace, he may continue the attack on hearts, since the play so far is entirely consistent with declarer having king-third of hearts.
As it happens, when East ducks the first diamond, South can safely switch to clubs. The rest is easy. The general principle is that it pays to steal the ninth trick early. The opponents are less likely to let you get away with it later on when they have had a chance to figure out what is going on. ANSWER: Though your honors are strong, I would advocate responding two diamonds rather than three clubs here. The problem is that you have only a five-card suit, and you run the risk of pre-empting partner out of his natural sequence if you bid three clubs.You should be able to show your hand later (though club suits are problematic because three clubs often serves as a second negative).