ACES ON BRIDGE
Today’s problem poses a double challenge. Not only do you have to find the right defense, but you also have to try to protect your partner from finding the wrong play -- and bear in mind that it sometimes seems that most of the players we associate with will find the wrong play even if no reasonable possibility of error exists at all.
You are East, defending three notrump, after partner, who opened a weak two hearts, leads the heart king. Declarer wins with dummy’s ace, and you have to make your first decision as to what to discard. Let’s say you pitch a small spade, and declarer now leads a low club from dummy. What should you do, and why?
The correct answer is that you should win the club queen and shift to diamonds -- but specifically, you should play ace and another diamond. No other suit has any realistic chance of garnering the defenders enough tricks in time.
However, notice the effect of shifting to a low diamond initially, rather than playing the ace and a second diamond. If you do that, your partner might well cover South’s jack with the queen, setting up a second diamond stopper for declarer.
Since you need to find partner with the diamond queen, you might as well make sure that nothing bad happens should the cards lie as you project. Playing the ace and another diamond prevents partner from making a mistake, and thus saves you a few decades in limbo.
Nothing is perfect, but this hand is somehow unsuitable for a rebid of either two or three clubs. The best call, and one that is only a fractional overbid, is a jump to two no-trump. Admittedly, this suggests 17-19 while you only have 16 points, but your playing strength (coupled with the desire to protect your diamond guard) makes this the practical call.