ACES ON BRIDGE
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.