ACES ON BRIDGE
“These are the days when skies resume The old — old sophistries of June — A blue and gold mistake.”
— Emily Dickinson .....................
In today’s three-no-trump contract, both sides could have done better.
West’s fourth-highest diamond lead went to the 10 and queen. Declarer ran the club jack to East’s ace. Back came the diamond jack, ducked all around, followed by the spade two. Declarer inserted the queen; West won with the king and cleared diamonds. Declarer still could have succeeded by taking another spade finesse, with the aid of the 3-3 split, but when he knocked out the heart ace, West cashed out for down two.
Perhaps declarer should have played for the spade honors to be split, but he erred earlier on. It must be better to go up with the spade ace on the first round of the suit and then work on hearts. Only when East has the heart ace and either two or three small spades or honor-third in that suit (forcing declarer to guess) will this be costly. Similarly, though, East should duck the first club, disrupting declarer’s communications. Now, if declarer plays a club to the king, East wins and returns a diamond as before. Declarer can duck, but then a spade shift is fatal. If declarer rises with the ace and works on hearts, West wins the ace and clears diamonds. Declarer cannot then get to both his second heart trick and his long clubs. If instead declarer plays low on the spade shift, he cannot reach the 13th spade after a diamond return. There are situations in which East would have been correct to take his club ace, but in practice, holding off was more likely to be the right play.
ANSWER: Good 8-counts invite and all 10-counts drive to game facing a 15-17 no-trump opening. With 9, you would tend to take the low road with 4-3-3-3 shape, but your fine spade intermediates might push you in the other direction. Picture partner with something like jack-doubleton in spades, and those spot-cards combine to become a surefire trick! So bid three no-trump and do not look for a 4-4 spade fit.