Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

And when a lady’s in the case You know all other things give place.

John Gay

S North
Both ♠ J 8 3
 A 8 6 5 4
 8 5 3
♣ K 3
West East
♠ K 9 7 6 5
 K 2
 Q 7 6
♣ 10 7 4
♠ Q 10
 Q 10 9 7 3
 K 2
♣ J 6 5 2
♠ A 4 2
 A J 10 9 4
♣ A Q 9 8
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 ♣ Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


Goldilocks was well into spring-cleaning the bears’ cabin when she heard them return from their weekly foray to the bridge club. Today Papa Bear’s roaring could be heard as he came into the driveway. This was the board that upset him. His partner had declared three no-trump on a low spade lead.

“Can you believe the idiot put up the jack? He ducked the first and second spades, but West overtook, and cleared spades, with a sure diamond entry to shoot down the contract.”

Mama Bear felt she had done better. “I ducked the first spade in dummy, and when the 10 came up I played low from hand. I was hoping East had K-10 doubleton when the suit would be blocked. But as it was, West could overtake the queen when I ducked again, and now I was dead meat.”

Since Baby Bear was giving signs of being about to explode, Goldilocks decided to relieve the tension and ask him what had happened at his table.

“I played low from dummy and won with the ace,” he said. “This would block the suit whenever East has the doubleton king or queen of spades. I could then cross to the club king and play a diamond to the jack. Later I could use the heart ace entry for running the diamond eight. That would allow me to pick up any 4-1 diamond break.”

Since West might have overcalled with king-queen-fifth of spades and something in the red suits, this seemed best all round. And it worked.

You would have been close to jumping to two hearts had East not responded to his partner’s opening bid, but as it is, unless one of your opponents has dramatically misled you about his values, your side’s combined assets do not add up to the game zone. I would bid two hearts, planning to compete to three hearts over a call of three diamonds by one of my opponents.


♠ J 8 3
 A 8 6 5 4
 8 5 3
♣ K 3
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 1 ♠

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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


Mircea1March 22nd, 2017 at 3:11 pm

If I’m not mistaken, West can sink the contract on a HK opening lead (3 hearts + 1 diamond + 1 spade tricks). In this context, is Double of 3NT by East reasonable or is it highly speculative? It would ask for a lead in dummy’s first bid suit and be based mostly on the invitational bidding sequence that led to the final contract.

jim2March 22nd, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Assuming declarer wins second heart and finesses diamonds, looks like the same nine tricks to me.

Bobby WolffMarch 22nd, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Hi Mircea1,

I think the defense comes up short after an original king of hearts lead, by declarer ducking the first heart and then winning the first spade (if, in fact the defense switches to spades which is probably their best chance, but, at double dummy, does not work).

No doubt the double of 3NT by East is highly speculative, in order to get the heart lead and (strictly from a results standpoint) thus my viewpoint is that to do so, is much too dangerous a move to contemplate on this hand (or one like it, if for no other reason but the fear of a redouble) when one of the declaring opponents has underbid and, full well realizing what opening lead is suggested by the double,therefore creating the confidence to predict likely overtricks, (or, of course, perhaps just the contract, which, if made is worth many more important numbers for more IMPs, matchpoints, victory points, or perhaps only humiliation points, which, in turn, serve to embarrass).

Making speculative penalty doubles is a very precarious business, necessarily subject to much scrutiny and therefore deference.

Yes, of course, the elements needed, some of which already mentioned by you, of indeed an invitational sequence and also the caliber of the opponents talent and judgment should, no doubt enter into the equation.

Just another important quality which contributes to the overall expertise of judging just who to mess around with.

Beware of the falcons in bridge and give them the utmost respect, otherwise be prepared to sometimes find an unsuspected twist to what may unhappily surprise you (one of which of those worthy opponents, after your double, leaving that contract, for a better result, by now reassessing where the cards may be, plus the opening lead they will need to overcome, if they remain static. In other words, everyone, not only one’s partner, is privy to what is going on.

However, thanks for bringing up this worthwhile subject, enabling many to be able to discuss it.

Iain ClimieMarch 22nd, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Hi Folks,

On the subject of lead demanding doubles, I recall the following problem hand from many years ago at teams and love all. AS WEst you hold Sxxxx H None D xxxx C Jxxxx. RHO opens 1D, LHO bids 1H, Pard passes and RHO bids 1NT (15-17, playing a weak NT). Pass, Pass X from partner agreed as demanding a heart lead and promptly redoubled on your right. Your go (answer below).


The winning (OK less painful) action was to run to 4H (!) as partner had something like Axx KQJ9xx xx Qx. Still gruesome but rather less so!

Bobby WolffMarch 22nd, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Hi Iain,

My guess is that you meant to have the bidding continue 3NT by your LHO (not pass), followed by a penalty double (demanding a heart lead) then redouble by an overconfident RHO, all pass.

Various choices by you:

1. Simply pass and hope for the best.

2. Bid four clubs, causing partner to likely venture four hearts and go set four or five tricks doubled, likely worse in four clubs doubled.

3. Go to the bathroom and instead of returning, sneak out the back door.

4. Drop a card on the floor and announce a small heart is being led. (preferred choice for the first fifteen or twenty seconds). It is possible in certain social games for the dummy to come down with declarer playing from dummy and your card never to appear (however, do not bet the farm on it).

If partner had one less heart (and you one more) the result would likely have been glorious with 3NT doubled and redoubled being set one.

There is sometimes a very thin line between being a hero or a goat with your partner being in the limelight, this time the result causing your dear partner to only “BAH” (or whatever goats do to make noise).

However the well known comment applies, at least, on this side of the pond. “Unlucky at cards, lucky in love”.

Iain ClimieMarch 23rd, 2017 at 12:41 am

HI Bobby,

Sorry, rushed post and you were dead right and 3NT was the potential contract.