ACES ON BRIDGE
“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.