Saturday, January 5, 2008

Win the Trick or Hold Up?
An Eternal Bridge Question
by Jim Kaplan

Sitting West, you see declarer lead a card toward the following Dummy suit:

K Q 10 5 4

Should you go up with the ace from your hand?

This familiar scenario repeated itself at the Northampton Bridge Club on December 11. East was dealing, with no one vulnerable:

NORTH
S J 6
H Q 10 6 5
D K Q 10 5 4
C A 10
WEST EAST
S 5 4 2 S 7 3
H A 9 3 H K 8 4
D A 8 7 6 D J 3 2
C K 8 6 C Q 9 7 5 2
SOUTH
S A K Q 10 9 8
H J 7 2
D 9
C J 4 3

The bidding proceeded as follows:

East South West North
Pass 1S Pass 2D
Pass 2S Pass 4S
All Pass

Opening lead: spade 2

Declarer drew two rounds of trump and led the diamond 9. Figuring South held a singleton, West went up with the ace and led a trump. Alas, South threw two club losers and two hearts on diamond winners and made five for a shared top.

If West holds off on diamonds, declarer wins the first diamond trick but can’t throw clubs or hearts on diamond winners. Instead, South loses a club and two hearts, making four for a high-middle board.

That’s not to say you should never go up with the ace when you see the king-queen on the board. Play the ace when it’s the setting trick or if you’re sure that partner earlier led a singleton and trumps are still out. By in large, though, taking one defensive trick while establishing two offensive ones isn’t a good idea.

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