Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.

Calvin Coolidge

S North
E-W ♠ 7 3 2
 J 10 4 2
 A 7 5
♣ J 8 4
West East
♠ Q 9 8
 9 8 5
 9 4 3 2
♣ K 9 5
♠ 10 6 5 4
 K Q 7 6
 K 10 8
♣ 3 2
♠ A K J
 A 3
 Q J 6
♣ A Q 10 7 6
South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


I normally like to use deals where virtue is rewarded and carelessness punished. That is the case, in a way, with today’s deal; however, although it came close to deciding an international match, it did not quite do so. The margin of the match was just one IMP in favor of the team who failed to bring home game here. So you could argue that at a different vulnerability the unsuccessful declarer might not have slept well that night.

At the unsuccessful declarer’s table, the heart nine was covered by the 10 and ace. South took the losing diamond finesse, and East shifted to the spade six, second highest, denying a decent suit. When declarer won in hand and crossed to the diamond ace to pass the club jack. West lost no time in winning and playing back the heart eight, and now the defenders had five winners.

In the other room when the heart nine was led, declarer correctly ducked in dummy. He won his heart ace and led the diamond queen for the finesse. East won and played back a spade, just as in the other room.

But South made no mistake when he won the spade ace, then played the club ace and another club. West could win and play the heart eight through dummy, but when dummy covered with the 10, the contract was safe.

South had one heart, four clubs and two tricks in each of the other suits, nine in total.

Your partner’s raise here is a serious game try. I’d expect a hand with at least an ace more than an opening bid. Yes you would rather have a fifth heart or a little more shape in the minors, but I think you have enough to bid on to game if you trust your partner. If partner had raised in competition, it would not carry the same guarantee of extras.


♠ 7 3 2
 J 10 4 2
 A 7 5
♣ J 8 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 14th, 2017 at 12:58 pm

I do not understand why the second declarer spurned the club finesse.

Iain ClimieMarch 14th, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Hi Jim2,

Suppose declarer crosses to table with the DA and leads the CJ finding East (improbably I admit) with a singleton King. You can still set up 4 club tricks but does losing the lead mess things up? To be fair, you could lead a small club to the Queen but the play also guards against west having 5 clubs when you can unravel things to get at the 4 club tricks. At the table, I’d have taken the finesse, just as you say.

Does any of this make much difference, though?




BobliptonMarch 14th, 2017 at 1:22 pm

He didn’t need it. he always has 4 clubs, two spades, 2 diamonds and a heart.

jim2March 14th, 2017 at 2:12 pm

One IMP is worth the effort unless it adds risk. Does taking the finesse risk the contract?

Paul FlashenbergMarch 14th, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Another example of poor declarer play, and this at the international level. The so called experts seem to be lacking in both declarer play and defensive technique.

jim2March 14th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

When I read columns or accounts from matches, I try to remind myself that I am reading the hand in isolation with the signal that there is a significant decision to be made right then. The players themselves likely had played many hands over many hours/sessions/days and had no such warning, but did have a level of mental exhaustion that I do not have when I read it. There must be a triaging of attention by players in such situations, akin to chess players with a clock under time pressure.

My question was not an indictment, but an honest one. In short, was there a technical reason to decline the finesse? I could not identify one.

Bobby WolffMarch 14th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Hi Jim2, Iain, Bob, and Paul,

Since today’s hand was real, it seems there was a strong technical incorrect play, the ten of hearts at trick one, and a lesser, but, of course, smaller gaffe present, by not playing the ace of clubs from hand in order to basically insure 4 club tricks for the contract later, in case the clubs broke 5-0 with West having the 5. The latter is a very small percentage, and whether the possible giving up of an overtrick is worth it, the declarer must decide since, yes, more often than is probably thought, matches are sometimes decided by a single IMP (my not proven initial feeling is to go for the possible overtrick, but it is close and failure to execute safely is definitely cause for concern), but obviously so would not taking the finesse, if it, indeed caused a loss or a tie and then a loss in overtime.

Bridge competition can indeed be ruthless, leading to the results caveat, “Only let the winner explain, with a loser keeping quiet and only being thought a fool, instead of defending one’s action and proving it”.

However the play of the ten of hearts at trick one and though intuitive, is incorrect enough to force oneself to understand why.

Also, yes Paul some otherwise thought to be careful declarer can get caught up with just pretending to follow suit, but then on occasion ruing the play later, but hopefully learning what a tricky game we all love to play is sometime, for a player on the way up, to better deal with what appears to be in front of his face.

jim2March 14th, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Ah, West having all the missing clubs is a small risk, but a real one, should declarer finesse.

Bobby WolffMarch 14th, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your assessment of both mental exhaustion and overall compassion for those on the firing line and not like the long ago duck which came down from the ceiling during Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life” screaming the magic word of “better be careful” (not exactly the case, but maybe a reminder of the emotion) is right on target.

Sometimes, maybe because of concern about time constraints, economical thought process, worry about giving away the location of cards to the declarer (or the table ethics to partner) by excessively slow play, or perhaps, like you mention, just plain mental fatigue, (and even at the top rung) both declarers and defenders give up possible attempts at perfection in the interest of the game moving on, in order to comply with keeping the game playable (and, at least, enjoyable for all) without rapt attention for overtricks (particularly at rubber bridge and IMPs, but usually not matchpoints, (where each trick can be very important).

Of course, sometimes those carefree moments create chickens which come home to roost, but by doing so, and at the right moments, create at the table (and at home right here in River City) an atmosphere of compassion which, believe it or not, becomes infectious and downright appreciated by many, although some feel that by doing so they are letting everyone down, particularly themselves and their teammates, and refuse to comply with such an impulse.

What else is new, and only separates the sheep from the goats in concerned player’s minds. No real answer or opinion to be ventured here, only to set out the guidelines for every individual player to decide.

However compare the above with dirty filthy cheating, and one (almost never a lesser player) will understand just how heinous, cheating of any sort (including consistent unethical conduct), needs to require FOREVER banishment from any association with our game ever again.

Strong letter to follow!

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