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Aces Are Meant To Take Kings

  by Richard Pavlicek

The title of this article is a favorite maxim in a bridge teacher’s repertoire. As a defender, a novice is often too eager to lead out his aces, capturing nothing. Instead he is advised to sit back and wait for something big, like a king, to come along. Then, and only then, should he pounce with his ace. Our declarer used this principle to his advantage in the play of today’s deal.

4 H South
Both Vul
S A 6
H Q J 10 6
D Q 9 4
C J 7 4 3


2 C
4 H

1 NT
2 H
S Q 10 8 4 3
H 8 2
D A 8 3
C A 10 2
TableS J 9 5 2
H 5 4 3
D 7 6 5
C K 9 8

Lead: S 4
S K 7
H A K 9 7
D K J 10 2
C Q 6 5

After South’s one-notrump opening, North employed the Stayman convention to locate the four-four heart fit and promptly bid game.

West, having learned his lesson about laying down aces, led the spade four and declarer surveyed the situation.

The problem was easy to spot. If declarer plays the club suit himself, he is likely to lose three club tricks — and his contract. Therefore, South conjured up a plan that might deceive his opponents and force them to break the club suit.

The spade ace was won in dummy and trumps were drawn in three rounds, ending in the South hand. Declarer then led the 10 of diamonds and, when West naturally ducked, went up with dummy’s queen to give the impression he was missing the jack.

Declarer next returned to his hand with the spade king and led the deuce of diamonds toward dummy’s nine. Now there was no way in the world that our West player was going to play his ace on a deuce; after all, he refused a 10 on the first round! When he ducked again, it was all over.

West perforce won the third round of diamonds and was endplayed. A club lead would give declarer a third-round club trick; and a spade lead would yield a ruff and discard.

A good West player would not have fallen for this ruse — he would have realized that South must hold the diamond jack (otherwise his play of the suit was absurd) and taken his ace on the second round to exit safely with a diamond.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek