When dummy comes down with a far better (or worse) hand than you expected, it is easy to take your eye off the ball.
Consider today’s contract of five diamonds doubled, from a recent world championship. It was reached after North took a sensible view of his freakish hand by raising diamonds rather than looking for penalties.
On the lead of the spade eight to the 10 and ace, how should you continue? With visions of sugarplum fairies (a doubled overtrick) floating in his head, declarer cashed the club ace, pitching a spade, ruffed a club, took the heart ace, pitching a spade, and led the heart king, ruffed and overruffed. Now if a club ruff had stood up, there would have been 12 tricks. But East could overruff the third club and return a trump for one down.
If declarer had retained his losing spades and had pitched a club on the heart ace, he would have been better placed. He wins the spade ace, cashes the club ace to pitch dummy’s spade, then ruffs a club, and takes the heart ace, pitching a club. He leads the heart king as before, ruffed and overruffed. But now he can ruff two spades in dummy and two hearts in hand in complete safety. Although the fourth ruff in dummy (the third round of clubs with dummy’s high trump) can be overruffed with the diamond ace, declarer has two high trumps left in hand for his 10th and 11th tricks.
Bid with the aces
|♠ K Q J 10 6 3|
|♦ A 7 6 4|
|♣ 7 6|
Answer: Anyone who tells you to open this with a weak two-bid is a bean counter, not a bridge player. The internal solidity of the spades, coupled with your 1 1/2 defensive tricks and your four-card side suit, makes this a much better one-level opening than a balanced aceless 12-count. To see this hand’s power and quality, consider that a bare three aces opposite give you nine top tricks in no-trump.