Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

From recovery to rags and rags to recovery symbolizes art — a perfect compilation of human imperfections.

Chris Jami

West North
North-South ♠ A K 8 7
 A Q 5 3
 Q 6 3
♣ 4 3
West East
♠ 6 4 2
 J 2
♣ K J 9 8 7 6 5 2
♠ J 10 9 3
 K 10 8
 K 9 8 7
♣ Q 10
♠ Q 5
 9 7 6 4
 A J 10 5 4 2
♣ A
South West North East
  3 NT* Dbl. 5♣
5 All pass    

*A minor-suit preempt


While North-South would have made four hearts here, pre-emptive action by their opponents steered South to a contract where he needed a little help from the defense.

When West showed a long broken minor at his first turn, East took the advance sacrifice in five clubs. South was jockeyed by the vulnerability into trying for the diamond game rather than defending, and collecting 500.

West led the club eight, and South won East’s queen with his ace. Next he crossed to the spade king, and led the diamond queen to the king and ace. The 4-0 trump break was bad news. It looked as though, unless the heart finesse was right, there would surely be at least three losers in the form of two hearts and a trump.

But from the bidding it seemed very likely that the heart finesse was wrong, so South tried a different tactic. He cashed the spade queen, and crossed to dummy with the heart ace. Then he cashed the third top spade, discarding a heart, and ruffed dummy’s last club. Finally came a low heart from hand. West had made an expensive, if pardonable mistake earlier on, because he had followed to the first heart lead with his two.

As a consequence he was left on lead with his heart jack, and was obliged to concede a ruff and discard. One of declarer’s hearts from hand went away, as the club was ruffed in dummy, and the game was home.

Despite the two aces I’m not sure I want to defend here. Immediate action suggests a minimum hand and a minimum in high cards and defense, so I guess I would bid two diamonds. (Yes, if you pass and partner doubles now, you might elect to defend, but you may not be able to describe your hand accurately if he does anything else.)


♠ Q 5
 9 7 6 4
 A J 10 5 4 2
♣ A
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl. 1♠

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Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2015 at 9:36 am

Hi Bobby,

Can east help here? If drops the SJ under the first top spade, doesn’t he denie the Queen and also suggest a decent heart holding. It could at least nudge West in the right direction. Also, east knows that if South holds (say) Sxxx HJ9x DAJ10xxx CA, the hearts lie well for declarer and the slow spade trick won’t materialise.

Of course this is partly hindsight, but it probably costs nothing to try.



Bobby WolffApril 8th, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Hi Iain,

While I completely agree to your suggestion (East dropping the jack of spades under declarer’s queen when he cashes it merely because it is sound practice with good defense to signal partner that he can afford to hold or not hold certain cards, by letting it sometimes be thought of as a wake-up call), the game may just be too difficult at times to even attempt to baby sit the defense.

To clarify, West, by the diamond spots and the way it has gone up to then should know that if declarer has a 3rd spade he will be home with 4 spade tricks, 5 diamond tricks and the 2 rounded aces, hence he will need his partner to have both the K10 of hearts along with his other, and of course 4 spades.

Ah yes, and West should have the expert experience to know that quite often, and from Jx, the knave should be unloaded on the first round of the suit (of course, not when partner may have only the queen, but rather either the king ten or sometimes the ace ten along with at least one other). Also when partner does not have the ten (with his monarch or ace), it usually will then, make no difference.

Today’s hand is a quality example of such a holding, with the even more common one of declarer holding K9xx opposite Q8x(x) and it being necessary, as here, of partner being able to then cash the 10, rather than you being stuffed on lead at an inappropriate time for the defense. Sort of, like being all dressed up and no place to go.

Summing up, a grizzled old long time good player may not be able to totally visualize this conundrum, but as the saying goes, “he will know it when he sees it”, and lo and behold, it is upon him and away goes that ugly blocking card.

Finally, in an attempt to again clarify, the jack in this case is wastepaper if declarer has the ten in hand and MOST IMPORTANT, make no mistake, the worthy declarer, will always know (or almost), EXACTLY how many hearts you have started with.

Sometimes it is easier to defend well while playing against the best players.

Peter PengApril 9th, 2015 at 4:36 am

hi Bobby

beautiful play – opps faux pas not withstanding – does it have a name?

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2015 at 8:05 am

Hi Peter,

Yes, excellent bridge is often involved with taking full advantage of the opponents (often worthy) mistakes (faux pas).

Although I know of no specific name for this coup, other than being fortunate, let’s just call it opportune. And thus being opportune can also be translated into winning, something all of us constantly strive to do.

To deny mistakes in bridge is to deny the sun coming up in the morning, something which would seem difficult, especially to ones who have become sun burned.

Thanks for your acute observation.