ACES ON BRIDGE
“Until you understand a writer’s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This hand was played in a matchpoint contest. The vast majority of North-South pairs landed in four spades, some making only 10 while others managed 11 by endplaying East. On the most common line of defense, there are, in fact, 12 tricks to be had! How should declarer play for his matchpoint top?
West leads the club queen from his sequence, which would have been my choice as well. You could argue that it might have been better to try a red suit, not just to make a useful lead through one of dummy’s queens, but also to avoid tipping declarer off as to where all the defensive points were, following East’s opening bid. However, that seems like Monday-morning quarterbacking to me. After all, the information on where his high cards are might be critical to his partner instead of declarer.
Declarer wins the club and runs the spade nine. Next comes the other top club, followed by a spade to the king and ace and a club ruff, extracting East’s final exit-card. Then come three more rounds of trumps, shedding two hearts from the dummy. East can spare a heart and a diamond discard, but he must capitulate on the final trump. A heart discard would see declarer play a heart to the ace and another, not only establishing the heart five in his hand, but also endplaying East to lead into the split diamond tenace. If instead East reduces to a doubleton in diamonds, the diamond ace and another diamond will throw East in for a heart lead around to dummy’s ace-queen.
ANSWER: You could argue that a limit raise of three spades would be an underbid; you would make the same call with a small spade in the diamonds. However, the hand is too slam-suitable for a preemptive four spades, while a game-forcing Jacoby two no-trump would leave partner misled about your high-card strength. I’d settle for the limit raise because of the relatively flat side-suit shape.