ACES ON BRIDGE

Vancouver Sun - - FEA­TURES - bobby wolff

“Do not hold as gold all that shines as gold.”

— Alain de Lille

On our week’s fi­nal themed deal fo­cus­ing on trick-one play, West has a nasty lead prob­lem. A di­a­mond is safest but car­ries lit­tle of­fen­sive po­ten­tial. He opts for a heart in­stead, which is more ef­fec­tive than it might ap­pear. In fact, it presents de­clarer with an at­trac­tive los­ing op­tion.

South can see four po­ten­tial losers on this lead — a spade, a di­a­mond and two clubs. One plan might be to take ad­van­tage of the gift, putting up the heart queen (hop­ing specif­i­cally that East has the dou­ble­ton king) then draw­ing trumps. But South can do bet­ter by play­ing for dis­cards on the hearts. To play high from dummy would block the suit, risk­ing tak­ing no more than two heart tricks if spades do not be­have.

In­stead, de­clarer plays low from dummy and wins the ace in hand. He takes the spade ace-king and leads a heart, clear­ing the suit. West wins his king and shifts to di­a­monds, but de­clarer coun­ters by win­ning in hand and con­ced­ing a spade to West, free­ing up the hearts to run. West can do no bet­ter than put down the club ace, hold­ing South to 10 tricks.

The key to the deal is to set up hearts while keep­ing East off lead. In ef­fect, de­clarer trades a heart loser for a di­a­mond loser but also es­tab­lishes dis­cards for his clubs. If you played the heart queen from dummy and the ace from hand, West might de­cide to duck the sec­ond heart, lim­it­ing de­clarer to two heart win­ners.

As this deal shows, it is fre­quently cru­cial to se­lect the first card from dummy with great care.

AN­SWER: Give pref­er­ence to three di­a­monds. It would be a mis­take to bid two no-trump, as you have ex­cel­lent sup­port for part­ner. By sup­port­ing at the three-level, you give part­ner room to show more of his hand. The club, di­a­mond and spade cards are work­ing over­time. If part­ner bids three hearts, im­ply­ing short clubs, you will cue-bid four clubs.

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