ACES ON BRIDGE

Houston Chronicle - - PUZZLES & TV - By Bobby Wolff

To­day’s deal sees North stretch just a frac­tion to treat his hand as a game-forc­ing spade raise, then sign off upon find­ing short hearts op­po­site. South has more than enough to drive to slam (though pes­simists could use Black­wood first if they pre­fer), since even fac­ing the most un­suit­able hand, there will prob­a­bly be play for slam on most leads.

West is for­tu­nate to have been dealt a se­quence on lead, and that gives de­clarer no help. How should he play to com­bine his chances for 12 tricks? He has two slow losers (in clubs and di­a­monds) and two queens whose value he can ex­ploit if he uses them ef­fi­ciently. He can take a heart fi­nesse and dis­card his di­a­mond loser from hand, or he can lead to the club queen: If he finds West with the king, he can pitch his di­a­mond loser from dummy on his top club.

It looks log­i­cal to win the di­a­mond lead and draw trumps end­ing in hand, but then de­clarer has to com­mit him­self, and the or­der of his plays is crit­i­cal. He must play West for the club king by lead­ing toward the club queen. If this fails, he still has time to take the heart fi­nesse. Con­versely, if he fi­nesses in hearts first and loses, there is no se­cond chance. He can­not avoid a club loser.

As the cards lie, West will take his king and re­turn a di­a­mond, but de­clarer can win and un­block clubs, then ruff a heart to hand to pitch the di­a­mond loser from the North hand on the club ace.

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