Puzzle 7F31   Main

# Ace Grabber

by Richard Pavlicek

There you are, in your favorite contract after a routine 2 NT opening. Partner puts down a meager dummy, but an ace is an ace, and his boost to game is undeniably correct — especially opposite a declarer of your caliber. (I lie a lot, but I need to build your confidence for this difficult deal.)

 3 NT SouthNone Vul 4 3 2 A 2 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 WestPass North3 NT EastAll Pass SOUTH2 NT J 7 6 5 Q 9 8 — Q J 10 9 8 7 K 9 8 7 6 5 4 K 10 4 3 2 K Lead: Q A Q 10 K J 10 3 A Q J A 6 5

You have the potential for nine tricks — two spades, three hearts, three diamonds and a club — but the dearth of entries to dummy greatly limits your finessing ability. Some fancy footwork may be required to realize your potential.

Seeing all four hands, can you make 3 NT against any defense?

## Solution

The key plays come early. It looks tempting to hold up on the first trick, but you must grab the ace (else a heart shift is deadly). Next you must grab another ace, in spades. This bizarre play forces East to dictate his course of defense while you have the resources to cope.

 3 NT South 4 3 2 A 2 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 Trick1 W2 S3 S4 N5 E Lead Q A! 10 3 5 2nd25QKK 3rdK2A108 4thA!8462 W-LW1W2W3L1W4 J 7 6 5 Q 9 8 — Q J 10 9 8 7 K 9 8 7 6 5 4 K 10 4 3 2 K Lead: Q A Q 10 K J 10 3 A Q J A 6 5

Suppose East follows low to the A (surely normal). You can now succeed with several lines, as East will be isolated from West. Simplest is probably to lead a middle heart, queen, ace; then lead a spade toward the queen. Assume East wins the K and returns a heart to reach this position:

 NT win 5Success 4 — 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 Trick6 S7 S8 S9 E10 S11 S Lead Q J 3 2 A J 2nd79 7Q 9 3rd4 3 4 86 4th96753 W-LW1W2L1W3W4 J 7 9 — J 10 9 8 7 9 7 6 K 10 4 3 2 — South leads Q J 3 A Q J 6 5 Win 1 more trick

Cash the Q and J, then throw East in with a heart (pitching clubs from dummy). Win the free diamond finesse, then cash the A and lead your last diamond to East, who must give dummy your ninth trick.

Variation: If East unblocks the K under the ace, the spotlight turns to West. Declarer can easily assemble eight tricks with a heart and a diamond finesse. Two diamond winners will force West to part with a good club, then he is endplayed with a club to lead from J-x.

If you tried to make this contract with other approaches, you would find yourself frustrated by East’s ability to unblock in spades. The key is to make him commit early.

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