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Always?

I do not much like the ditty,

“Never underlead an ace”.

Don’t get me wrong - leading away from an ace is dangerous at the best of times, and to be avoided at all costs at Trick One to a trump contract. But it does not apply in notrumps, where leading from a five-card suit headed by the ace may cost a cheap trick, but you hope to get a return for your investment in the form of length winners. And the ditty does not apply to a trump contract once dummy is tabled.
Take this deal.

South Deals
None Vul
Q J 9 6 2
K Q 10 8
9 7 2
J
4
9 4 3 2
A 10 6 3
A K 7 4
 
N
W   E
S
 
8
A 7 5
J 5 4
Q 9 8 6 5 3
 
A K 10 7 5 3
J 6
K Q 8
10 2
West North East South
      1 
Dbl1 4  Pass2 Pass
Pass      
  1. The perfect shape for a take-out double,
    even if a tad light in high-card points.
  2. Close to bidding 5 . Theoretically correct to pass though, with 4  down (on best defence) and 5  also down.

 

What happened
West led  A against the 4  game, so far so good (“if you have an ace-king, you do not have a lead problem”). It was at Trick Two that he erred. With dummy now void of clubs, it was clear to switch suits. But to what?

With the words “never underlead an ace” ringing in his ear, West switched to  6. No good - East won  A, and returned  4 to  Q and  A, but declarer could win West’s return of  3 (to East’s  J) with  K, draw trumps, then cash hearts, discarding his diamond loser. 10 tricks and game made.

What should have happened
After cashing  A, West surveys dummy. The three small cards in diamonds, coupled with the strength in hearts, make a diamond switch look very attractive in spite of holding  A.  3 goes to  J and  Q. Declarer draws trumps, then plays on hearts to force out  A and set up his winners. East grabs  A and leads  5 through declarer’s  K8. West beats (say)  K with  A and cashes the promoted  10. Down one.

If you remember one thing...
Remember that the “never underlead an ace” ditty only applies before dummy is tabled.

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