ACES ON BRIDGE
“Between craft and credulity, the voice of reason is stifled.”
— Edmund Burke
When very strong and balanced, most players start with a takeout double of a preempt, intending to bid no-trump next. However, when the opponents’ suit is spades, it may be more practical (as here) simply to gamble on three no-trump.
Reasoning that declarer is prepared for spades, West tries a diamond, which goes to the 10, king and ace. How should South proceed?
If declarer were to play on clubs first, the defenders would clear diamonds, establishing three tricks there. Declarer would need two more tricks from somewhere and could not look to the spades without allowing the defenders to cash out. Knowing that hearts could not be 3-3 after West had followed to a club, declarer could not hope for king-third in hearts onside. He would have to scramble two quick winners in the heart suit and would no doubt lay down the heart ace, playing for a singleton king on his left. Today, he would be held to eight tricks.
Declarer should realize he needs three heart tricks. With no entries to dummy to set up a spade winner, he should go after hearts at once. He should hope that West has the king in a short suit, so he should lead the heart ace and a low heart at once. West wins and continues diamonds. Declarer ducks, wins the third round and knocks out the club ace to reach nine tricks.
If East had king-third in hearts, West would have a club void. Declarer would still make the hand by this approach since the club ace would be in the safe hand.
ANSWER: I would need much better suits than these to make a Michaels cue-bid of two hearts, which leaves me with a onespade overcall or pass. There is considerable upside to acting, but I would risk it only when non-vulnerable. While bidding might lead to the occasional success, I’m convinced that maintaining partner’s trust that you have something when you bid will win out in the long run.