ACES ON BRIDGE
Helen Sobel was one of the world’s best players of her generation. When she declared three no-trump here, West led the spade seven, his partner’s suit. Sobel made two winning plays at the first trick: She called for dummy’s 10, and then she ducked East’s queen.
After taking the spade king continuation with the ace, she played the club queen. East took this with the king and played the spade nine, taken by Sobel’s jack, while discarding a heart from dummy. Then came the club 10. West won and could do no better than exit with a club, taken by the jack. The diamond ace came next, then a diamond to the queen, and the hand was over. Sobel had two tricks in each major, plus a club and four diamonds.
Note the significance of the play to the first trick. If declarer does not put up the spade 10, East covers the seven with the eight. South must duck, or the spades will eventually be set up, as the defenders still have communications in place in spades. After declarer ducks trick one, if the defenders are careful not to open up hearts, declarer can take no more than eight tricks.
But once declarer puts up the 10, it forces East to cover; otherwise, declarer has a cheap trick while retaining two spade stoppers. Now, by ducking, declarer has effectively severed the defenders’ communications in the spade suit.