Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Liberty consists in doing what one desires.

John Stuart Mill

S North
None ♠ 5 4 3
 Q 10
 A K 9 5
♣ A 8 4 3
West East
♠ K Q 8 2
 J 6 2
 Q J 6 2
♣ K 5
♠ 9 7
 K 9 8 5
 10 4 3
♣ J 9 7 2
♠ A J 10 6
 A 7 4 3
 8 7
♣ Q 10 6
South West North East
1 ♣ Dbl. 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


Last summer in the quarterfinal round of the Spingold Knockout Teams, the Lavazza team defeated their opponents handily. There were some bright spots for the losers, though, and Glenn Milgrim made a nice play on this deal.

You reach three no-trump by South after West has doubled the one club opener. A heart lead would doubtless have sunk you, since you would surely have misguessed the suit, but West, Zia Mahmood, led the spade queen.

Milgrim won, and elected to run the diamond eight, which lost to the 10 on his right. East, Giorgio Duboin, helpfully returned a heart, which was ducked to the 10. A club to the 10 and king was followed by a low heart to the queen and king, ducked by South.

Now the defenders reverted to spades. Milgrim covered the nine with the jack and Zia ducked, seeing that if he were to cover, he would eventually fall victim to a simple spade-diamond squeeze after two clubs and a heart were cashed.

In the seven-card ending Milgrim now cashed the ace and queen of clubs, compelling West to pitch the heart jack. Then the heart ace forced West to let go of his low spade. Finally, a diamond towards dummy gave West the option of splitting his honors, or ducking and letting the nine of diamonds score cheaply. When Zia covered the second diamond, Milgrim won in dummy and led a spade. West now had to win and at trick 12 was compelled to lead into the diamond tenace, to concede nine tricks.

When faced with a marginal hand for acting over a preempt, the general rule is to act with shortage in the opponents’ suit, and pass with length. But there are exceptions; this hand seems too light, and with a soft defensive holding in hearts, I’d rather defend. The risk of going for a penalty, or turning a plus into a minus, is just too high. Were partner not a passed hand, the decision would be harder.


♠ 5 4 3
 Q 10
 A K 9 5
♣ A 8 4 3
South West North East
    Pass 3

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slarAugust 25th, 2016 at 2:32 pm

In the column hand there is something beautiful about trying to set Zia up for a squeeze and then end-playing him when he tries to wriggle out of it. That was worth the price of admission!

Does East have a better option at trick 3? I wonder if the HK is an improvement. I think South must duck this or lose two heart tricks later. If West then discourages, East can go back to spades (hopefully he unblocked the 9 at trick one). I don’t think this play makes a difference if the HA / HJ are swapped.

In BWTA would an inquiry be in order? I would be itching to get into the auction (non-vulnerable in Matchpoints, favorable vulnerability otherwise). If the opening is known to be sound then playing defense looks hopeless. If it is the normal light / very light style then I agree I would pass and hope for a plus. For all you know West has the best hand at the table and you might end up defending 4H.

Bobby WolffAugust 25th, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt there is plenty of satisfaction in another version of a Golden Rule in bridge: “Do on to others which they often do on to you”, and then to switch which to before.

And while inquiring is always permissible in bridge, often there is unauthorized information (UI) passed to your partner (awkward and sometimes prohibitive) and to your opponents (unwise for the bidding to come, and then, if defending, to likely make their declarer play more accurate) by both your question and including your hesitation.

However life goes on, even at the bridge table, therefore meaning what you want it to, but would you, or anyone in your position care, if you had the same hand but one less ace?

All that you say above is impressive and directly on point, but bridge requires an even tempo, so that extra responsibility is sometimes handled differently by different opponents, those who respect the ethical strictures of our game, and those who do not, and worse, pretend that they do, but, in fact, take every advantage they can find.

In no way am I including you in the above description since how would I know, and even if I suspected one way or the other (I don’t), I would never be so brash to assume.

Please exclude the above detour, but it seemed a good time to preach to the wind, just in case the air had ears.

Opposite a passed hand an in tempo pass is called for and if LHO now passes, your super partner will now guess to do the right thing, whatever it turns out to be (possibly only in your dreams).

Briefly, only returning to the discussion of proper bridge ethics, without ethical compliance our game is greatly reduced in value, and therefore that fact alone should “goose” players to fulfill their obligations.

Sooner or later, everyone who plays the game, but particularly the ones with talent, will be subject to ethical judgment. Since that fact will then be eventually, if not sooner, common knowledge to all true competitors why wouldn’t every player who, at least, grows to love the game he or she plays, want to treat it with the respect it not only deserves, but wouldn’t survive the test of time, without?

Strong letter to not follow, since this subject is just too sensitive to pursue.

Iain ClimieAugust 25th, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Hi Slar, Bobby,

Swap the C2 and the C6 and the C9 from East when he is in (as a surroind play) makes reasonable sense. Unfortunately it doesn’t work at all well today. I like Slar’s suggested HK play, though, although West may place East with HK98x and get over-zealous by unblocking the HJ.



Iain ClimieAugust 25th, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Sorry check the pips first! the HK is actually West proof!

Bobby WolffAugust 25th, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Hi Iain,

By merely bringing it up, you, in effect, will emphasize its accuracy. Therefore you continue to add and almost never subtract and best of all, not allow others to nap instead of verifying.

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