ACES ON BRIDGE
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“The sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.” — Ernest Hemingway (of the dead in World War I) Xi Hou, West, is the star of today’s International Bridge Press Association award nominee for best defense of the year. Defending against the diamond slam, Hou led a passive heart nine. Declarer won in dummy, led a trump to his hand and advanced a low club. Although Hou knew this to be a singleton after South’s five-club bid, he played low to avoid giving declarer two discards on dummy’s club winners. After winning the club king, declarer cross-ruffed two clubs and two hearts, drew East’s last trump, ending in the dummy, and played a low spade to the 10, queen and king. It seemed that West would now have to decide who had the spade nine. If East had it, a spade exit would be safe. If not, declarer, who surely held three spades, would run a spade exit to his hand. Hou did not need to guess. By counting carefully, he knew declarer had eight trump tricks, one club, one heart and one spade, so he played a club to give declarer a ruff-and-sluff. Declarer would have scored the ruff in one of the majors anyway, so this did not help him. After this great defense, declarer had just 11 tricks. Only one route can bring declarer home. After winning the first club, South had to cross to hand with another trump, ruff a heart and lead a spade, covering East’s card, playing West for the spade king. West would be on play in a similar position, except dummy’s clubs would be intact. Therefore, an exit in either black suit would give declarer his slam-going trick. ANSWER: Double. This is not without slight risk, but the potential gain of finding a good sacrifice or a make in four spades, or a penalty for the opponents’ four hearts, is surely worth the possible downside of going for a number or increasing their plus. Partner could have a fair hand and still have been unable to act at his first turn.