Spoilt For Choice
by Tony Cockerill

Last year, the following hand was played on about 16 occasions at the Yateley & Hawley bridge club in Surrey.

Depending upon respective bidding conventions, North opened a strong 2S(Acol), 2C(Reverse Benji-Acol) or 1C(Strong club). East usually passed except over the 1C opening when a 1D overcall was made. In all cases South showed a club suit and North raced off asking for Aces, finding none, but then jumped into 6S which was doubled by East.

Holding the following East hand, what would you lead at trick 1?

SA 3   HJ 9 7 6   DA J 6 3   CA 7 2

This was the full hand:

Dealer N
NS Vuln
SK Q J 10 8 7 6 5
HA K Q 5 4
S9 4
H10 3 2
DK 9 8 2
CJ 10 5 4
HandSA 3
HJ 9 7 6
DA J 6 3
CA 7 2
DQ 10 7 5 4
CK Q 9 8 6 3

Well how did you do? In all cases, East led one of the minor Aces, preferring to hang onto the trump ace as a certain entry with which to guarantee a second chance to lead again. Declarer ruffed in hand with the five of spades, cashed a top heart and then ruffed the lowest heart with the key two of spades in dummy! Back to the North hand with the original minor suit led, not wanting to reveal another minor void, and trumping with the ten of spades. Now the king of spades is played losing to the ace of spades, and North won any lead returned, usually the other minor ace, then played off all the spades bar one and then cashed the AKQ of hearts noting the fall of the jack of hearts on the third round, so the last spade and the five of hearts completed the slam.

The top score was 6S redoubled, one pair having the audacity to make this bid! Double dummy analysis shows that EW should take two tricks, the ace of spades and the jack of hearts remains protected. However, even if the ace of spades had been led at trick 1, how many players would have hung on to the four hearts and ejected the minor aces?

How often have you made a SLAM with three aces missing including the trump ace?

Tony Cockerill