ACES ON BRIDGE
Italy’s Andrea Manno had to emulate Hercule Poirot to succeed in his slam at the 2014 Cavendish, held in Monte Carlo.
Manno ended in slam after East had opened one diamond, guaranteeing an unbalanced hand, since he would have opened one club with a balanced hand. West selected the club four as his opening lead — a fine choice, since on a diamond lead, declarer will take 12 tricks without breaking a sweat. He can set up spades to pitch his club losers, even if he loses a spade trick.
On the club lead, Manno rose with dummy’s ace and took due notice of East’s 10. Declarer cashed the spade ace next, then set about drawing trumps. When East showed up with four hearts, that meant that he surely held at least nine cards in the red suits. The club 10 at trick one suggested a doubleton; it could not be a singleton, since in that case West would have led the king from the king-queen. And if East had three clubs, East must also have a singleton spade, in which case the contract could not be made, since there would be no entry to dummy’s long spade.
This allowed Manno to deduce East’s 2-4-5-2 shape, and he also knew East had a maximum of 9 points in the minors. To have enough material for even the slightest of opening bids, East surely had to hold the spade queen. So Manno cashed the spade king, and down came the queen.