Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor.

William Shakespeare

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


Facing a strong no-trump, North has enough to raise to three no-trump; against which West leads the diamond queen.

South should win in dummy, hoping to pin a bare nine or 10 of diamonds in East. He cannot afford to duck, since clubs, not diamonds, are the danger suit. Where does he go for tricks? His best chance is to lead the heart jack, and the moment of truth has arrived for East. If he covers the first heart, declarer will make three heart tricks and his contract.

East must play low, allowing his partner to win with the king, thereby retaining the queen-eight in his hand. That way declarer is limited to two heart tricks, since when declarer leads the 10, East can cover, hoping his partner has the nine. It must be right to cover the second time – if declarer has the nine, East’s queen is dead meat. This way declarer is limited to two heart tricks, and when diamonds do not yield declarer’s extra trick, he has only eight winners.

The general rule is that in second seat one should cover the first of touching honors. There are exceptions when you have a doubleton honor, but the rule applies often enough that one should stick with it, and not question it too deeply. This is true whether we are looking at a combination of J-10 or Q-J for declarer or dummy.

Of course as third hand you play third hand high – but that is another story.

When faced with the choice of leading in unbid suits from a sequence or a broken suit, I won’t say that it is no contest, but you need a good reason to eschew the sequence. I can’t think of one here, so I’d go with the club jack. If my LHO had opened one club rather than one diamond I’d guess to lead a diamond, I suppose.


♠ A 5
 J 9 6 5
 Q 8 4 3
♣ J 10 8
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
All 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


Robson JobsonApril 17th, 2017 at 9:40 am

The general rule: “cover the first…” second rather?

Bobby WolffApril 17th, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Hi Robert,

Yes, of course, It should read, the general rule: “Cover the second with touching honors in dummy, not the first”.

Sorry for this important gaffe which could destroy this important defensive principle.

However, there are exceptions, usually pertaining when the 2nd seat defender, needs to clear an important suit and save his partner’s entry (often when the defense holds both the AK) to, after the suit gets established the right defensive hand will still have an entry to cash the lesser high ones in that suit.

However those exceptions need to be covered in a separate discussion.

Thanks for your timely correction and apologies to those who became confused.

Mircea1April 17th, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

In light of the result of today’s column problem, should responder to a strong 1NT opening rather invite with a flat 10 count or is the jump to game still reasonable? I have a feeling it’s a (very) close call.

Bobby WolffApril 17th, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Hi Mircea,

Strictly IMO, it would probably be better percentage to only invite with a totally balanced 10 HCP hand opposite a 15-17 1NT opening, but the fallout would be negative.

Seemingly, almost all winning tournament bridge players (and,, my guess, rubber bridge players also) are optimistic by nature, making the failure to bid game when 9+ tricks are the result damage that partnership far more than bidding those games, but failing to make it, merely hurt them.

Then factor in some poor opening leads and random errors by normal defenders, allowing non-making hands to succeed, no doubt will tend to make conservatism to look like the wrong way to go.

Psychology and overall results do influence normal bridge partnerships to either feel good or not so, about their future, so taking a consistent optimistic view is my definite recommendation.