ACES ON BRIDGE
Henceforth I ask not for good fortune; I myself am good fortune.
— Walt Whitman
Should West double one heart, facing a passed partner? At a different vulnerability, he might feel braver and get his side to four spades. Today, when West passes, you get to play four hearts on a spade lead, and are threatened with four losers if the club ace is wrong.
To set up an endplay, ruff a spade at trick two and lead a trump, hoping for a friendly shift. West does well to win his heart ace and passively return a trump. You win in hand, ruff the last spade, cash the diamond ace, and lead to the diamond 10. West gets his jack, but must now lead a club or concede a ruff-and-discard.
In addition to the endplay chances that hold on the actual deal, this line produces a discard for your club loser if West has three cards and either the diamond honors are split, or when West has both honors. It also works if either player has a doubleton or singleton honor, as well as if either hand began with Q-J doubleton. And if not, South can always fall back on the club finesse.
Note that if you do not ruff a spade at trick two, you cannot strip off the spades. For example, if you play trumps immediately, West eventually has a safe spade exit or you run out of trumps. Similarly, if East gains the lead in diamonds, he will play a club through you to set the contract.
Finally, if you play on clubs before diamonds, the defense will cash their clubs and exit with a third club, leaving you with a diamond loser.
BID WITH THE ACES
ANSWER: If you doubled one spade, it would show a penalty double of one heart, but a far more suitable hand for defense. Imagine the same hand with queen-third of spades and a doubleton diamond ace. Your choice appears to be between a pessimistic pass, a raise to two clubs, or an imaginative bid of one no-trump without a stopper. Even a bid of two hearts is possible, I suppose. I’ll settle for two clubs.