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Losing an Ace Reaps Reward

  by Richard Pavlicek

Since the discovery of the ducking play, every bridge player has suffered the occasional disappointment of losing an ace while defending a suit contract. If you duck one time too many, you can kiss your ace good-bye. In some cases this results in a net gain for declarer; but in other cases, like today’s deal, the lost trick is returned with interest.

The setting was the All Southern Regional, held January 1-6 in Tampa, and the event was the Men’s Pairs. South opened one spade and North was obliged to respond one notrump — unappealing with five-five distribution, but necessary since he lacked the high-card strength to respond at the two level. South might have bid diamonds as an exploratory move, but his jump to four spades cannot be criticized.

4 S South
N-S Vul
S 4
H J 9 5 4 3
C K 7 6 5 4


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

Lead: S Q
S A K 8 7 6 3
D A 7 4 2

West’s spade lead from his solid sequence was effective, as it eliminated any possibility of a diamond ruff in dummy. South won with the king and cashed the ace, discarding a heart from dummy. The club queen was led, East ducking, followed by the club jack.

East knew this was his last chance to win the club ace since West had followed suit up-the-line (indicating three clubs); but he also knew that winning his ace would establish the remaining clubs for declarer. After careful consideration, West ducked again. He was not sure this play would gain anything, although he felt at worst it would break even.

But gain it did! As hard as South tried, he could not avoid the loss of two diamond tricks and two spade tricks for down one. Observe that declarer would have succeeded if East had taken the club ace — one diamond is discarded on the club king and another on the club seven.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek