Houston Chronicle

ACES ON BRIDGE

- By Bobby Wolff

In this deal, when North shows a balanced 18-19 points, South cannot be sure his partner has more than one heart. If he bids four hearts directly, he may be disappoint­ed by the dummy, but a call of three hearts is absolutely forcing. North simply raises to game, though he might consider cue-bidding en route.

Today, it works far better not to do that.

A spade lead would allow East to win and shift to the club jack to set the game at once. However, most defenders are not psychic, and after a diamond opening lead, South must work hard to take advantage of that. South discards his losing spade on a diamond but must then avoid the loss of four club tricks. If he leads clubs, the opponents will win and play trumps at every turn to stop South from ruffing a club in dummy.

Declarer may justifiabl­y feel unlucky to lose four club tricks — but why rely on luck? Instead, set up dummy’s spades to shut East out of the lead. At trick four, South runs the spade jack, pitching a club. On winning his queen, West’s only chance to defeat the contract is to lead clubs, hoping his partner has the king rather than the jack. West’s desperatio­n shift to clubs gives South an extra trick, 12 in total, after East’s spade ace is ruffed out.

A passive trump return from West at trick five would see declarer take a second ruffing spade finesse against East, then cross to dummy in trumps to pitch clubs on the spade winners.

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