Bridge column, September 18: How long should you hold up the ace?
In bridge, we have the holdup play, when one does not take a trick that one could have won. Usually it is made with the intention of reducing the number of tricks an opponent can get in a suit. But there are rarer reasons; one is in this deal. How can West defeat four spades by South?
In the auction, two diamonds was New Minor Forcing, asking opener to say whether he had three spades or four hearts. This uncovered the 5-3 spade fit and kept South's second suit undisclosed. Without NMF, South would have had to rebid three hearts, giving the defenders extra information.
What should West lead?
If he thinks about the point-count, he will realize that East's only job is to avoid reneging (revoking). So leading the singleton is pointless; East cannot have an entry. Instead, West should play diamonds from the top. South ruffs the third round and attacks trumps. What should West do now?
When East shows up with one trump, West knows that he and South now have the same number. West needs to force South to ruff another diamond. But South will not need to do that while dummy has a trump left.
West holds up his spade ace until the third round of the suit. Then he leads his fourth diamond. When South ruffs with his last trump, West gains a second spade trick and fourth winner in all.
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