ACES ON BRIDGE
“It is doubly pleasing to trick the trickster.”
— Jean de la Fontaine
This week’s deals revolve around defensive play, specifically creating a losing option for declarer. A wily defender will try to distract declarer, sometimes by deceptive means, and at others by forcing him to commit himself prematurely.
In today’s deal from an online World Bridge Tour event last year, South invited slam, and North accepted, showing his key-cards en route. He won the club lead in hand and overtook his spade nine with the 10, angling to set dummy’s suit up. If he let the spade nine run, East might duck from queen-fourth.
East took the first spade and switched to a heart, but that made declarer’s life easy. South won the heart ace and, to combine his chances in the red suits, cashed the heart king next. When the queen fell and spades broke, declarer was home free. He no longer needed the diamond finesse.
Given the bidding, West was unlikely to have either the heart ace or the heart king, so East’s best defense was to shift to a low diamond, forcing declarer into a decision before he had managed to test for queen-doubleton in hearts. Declarer would surely rise with the diamond ace, cash a top heart, cross on a club and run the spades now, eventually leading a heart to the jack as most South players did when East found the best defense. If nothing else, it is just human nature for declarer to try to stay alive for as long as possible rather than staking everything on the diamond finesse early in the piece.
ANSWER: West’s Michaels Cuebid, followed by his pass, shows a spade-club two-suiter; East’s four-club call was asking partner to bid his minor. You should lead the heart ace. West has at most three cards in the red suits, so it makes sense to try to cash what tricks you can now, before they disappear. The heart lead will be wrong only if declarer has the guarded heart king — and not always then.