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44 - December 2023

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With 30 high-card points, you would expect North-South to make 3 No-Trump comfortably. Plan the play on the Jack of Clubs lead.

WNES
2NT
Pass3NT

You have eight top tricks and several chances of a ninth trick. There’s the Spade finesse (low to the Jack), and a 3-3 Club split (less likely after West’s lead of the suit, implying length). Both those suits can wait. Diamonds offers the best chance, and that should be our first port of call. The question is: how best to play Diamonds to make a second trick?
If Diamonds split 3-3, you’ll have a long card; if East holds the King, you’ll be able to promote your Queen (by leading towards it). You can increase your odds further. Win the Club with the King, cash the Ace of Diamonds, and lead a low Diamond (key play). Here, West’s short King appears, and the Queen is your ninth trick. Game made.
If only low cards appear, you can win the opposing (say) Heart switch, cross to the Ace of Clubs, and lead towards the Queenlow of Diamonds. This Ace-and-another method of playing Diamonds costs you a third Diamond trick when East has Kinglow-low. However, you are interested only in increasing your chances of making a second Diamond trick.
After West wins the King of Diamonds, you can win their (say) 10 of Clubs, and now, playing for the fun of an overtrick, duck a Heart. You win the defense’s (say) second Heart, cross to the Ace of Clubs, back to a third Heart, cash the Ace of Spades and Queen of Diamonds, then throw East in with the fourth Diamond to lead round to dummy’s King-Jack of Spades. But that’s merely the icing on the cake.

Brace yourself
The bare Ace of trumps is a funny old card to have in defense. It feels wrong to release it too early – after all, it’s your controlling card; also, you hope to catch a picture with the Ace

WNES
1♣(1)Pass1(2)1♠
2♣3♠(3)Pass4♠(4)
(1) Only just too strong for a 3♣ preempt.
(2) ‘High fives.’
(3) Raising preemptively to the presumed (nine-card) level of the fit.
(4) Bold, but the King of Hearts looks well placed and South is hungry for the game bonus.

On this 4 Spades from a World Championship, declarer won West’s Queen of Clubs lead (to East’s King) with the Ace. Seeking to eliminate the suit, declarer returned a Club at trick two (best). Say West wins and woodenly leads a third Club (or either red suit for that matter). Declarer ruffs the Club, cashes the AceKing of both red suits, ruffs a third Heart, then exits with a trump. West wins his bare Ace, but his forced Club return enables declarer to ruff in one hand and throw the losing Diamond from the other. Game made.

At the table, West saw what was coming and made no mistake. After winning the second Club, he cashed the Ace of Spades (key play) before exiting with a third Club. No endplay could now operate (West having rid himself of the throw-in card), and declarer had to lose the King of trumps and, in the fullness of time, the third Diamond. Down one. Did you get the title? Brace or, say slowly, “bare Ace”.

For all Andrew’s daily BridgeCasts, see andrewrobsonbridgecast.com

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Andrew Robson

Andrew Robson OBE is England’s best known bridge player. Andrew has represented England for some 30 years. His many competitive successes include winning the World Youth Team Championships, the European Championships, and the Gold Cup on no fewer than eight occasions.

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