Hand of the day #48

The Aces On Bridge by Bobby Wolff

When North showed slam interest via a four-heart cue-bid, South was happy to force to the six-level with his undisclosed ace and void on the side. He did so via a pick-a-slam five no-trump in case his side belonged in a minor. North placed the contract in six spades.

Opening Lead: 2

Unfortunately, dummy’s heart ace was not as useful as it might have been. Declarer ruffed the heart lead and played a spade to the ace in order to ruff another heart. He then played a spade up, intending to finesse if West followed small as per the Law of Vacant Spaces; West holding 10 non-hearts to East’s six. Fortunately, the queen was on the right side. Declarer then ran dummy’s remaining trumps, shedding three clubs from hand as West let go a heart, a club and… a diamond. It was then a simple matter for declarer to establish a third diamond trick.

West blundered there; it was certainly safe to let go another heart, after which declarer must read the hand to succeed. He cashes the heart ace, discarding his last club from hand. West cannot afford a diamond pitch, so he too reduces to one club. Now declarer must decide the shapes. Did West begin with 2=3=3=5, when declarer must play ace-king and another diamond while he still controls clubs, or is the actual distribution the most likely, where South has to cash the club ace to extract West’s exit-card, then play a diamond to the ace followed by a small diamond, ducking in hand to endplay West with his remaining queen-nine-eight?

South might well read the layout from the tempo of the discards, or by reasoning that a 4-4-3-2 distribution is more likely than 5-3-3-2, but the most emphatic reason is that East, with a broken heart suit and 7-2-2-2 shape, may have opened two hearts instead of three at unfavorable vulnerability. Still, it pays to give declarer a losing option.

Note that cashing the club ace before the heart ace would not be good enough; West could let go a diamond on the heart ace then, with his club set up.

Bid with the Aces

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