Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday May 2nd, 2017

Scenery is fine – but human nature is finer.

John Keats

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


In three no-trump South finesses diamonds at the first trick, losing to the king. When the diamond seven comes back to dummy’s ace, West follows with the eight, perhaps suggesting he began with four or five diamonds.

South unblocks spades and takes the heart finesse. Dummy’s heart jack holds, and South promptly runs the rest of the spades. Declarer needs West to hold one of the two club honors, and he should assume that West will either pitch a diamond winner, his heart guard, or bare his club honor on the last spade.

When West discards a club on the fifth round of spades, the question is if West has the bare heart king left, or if he has come down to one club, two hearts, and the last two diamonds. Since you are missing six clubs and seven hearts, West is more likely to have started with three hearts and two clubs, not the other way round.

It therefore looks best to lead a low club from dummy toward your jack. You hope West will win the trick with a bare club honor and cash his two diamonds. Then, however, West must lead away from his heart king, allowing declarer to make the last two tricks and bring home his contract.

West could have avoided this end-play by discarding the heart 10 instead of the club eight. But at this point you would probably infer that he had bared the heart king. You would cash the heart ace, dropping his king, with the heart queen now good for the ninth trick.

Double by you would be responsive, and your partner would expect both majors. It is simplest to bid two hearts now. While your partner might have three hearts and five clubs, playing the known fit at the two-level is the most practical action. You should play the percentages and not worry about looking for perfection.


♠ A J
 J 5 4 2
 Q 7 4
♣ 6 5 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 2

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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


David WarheitMay 16th, 2017 at 9:33 am

W can also avoid the endplay by discarding a D. S now cashes dummy’s DA and HA and plays a H to W’s K. W cashes his remaining D and leads a small C, and S plays the C? from dummy. Seems like a guess to me.

David WarheitMay 16th, 2017 at 10:10 am

Oops, I guess S already cashed the DA.

Bobby WolffMay 16th, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Hi David,

Guessing correctly (especially at the death of a bridge hand) is what John Keats apt bridge quote (though surely intended to be about life in general), is all about.

To be a player (declarer while playing or defending by causing his opponent to go wrong), especially while playing against the world’s best, and winning a mind battle by correctly guessing a critical ending is perhaps the most uplifting (and thrilling) experience one can have, while competing in our great game.

jim2May 16th, 2017 at 6:44 pm

If the bidding went, say:

1S – 2S (deciding AJ => xxx and tells pard where the values are)
3N – Pass

What would you lead as East?

Bobby WolffMay 16th, 2017 at 11:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

There are usually two types of hands an opening bidder will open a five card major system and then jump to 3NT after being singly supported.

1. A balanced 5-3-3-2 hand with 17+-19 and
2. A very good 6 card major with single stops in trhe unbids, but still balanced (no singleton).

Against #1 the nine of hearts lead seems to be best for not presenting declarer with trick #9, but against #2 (either is certainly possible, at least according to the East hand) I would strongly prefer to lead from a 5 card suit and get luckiy with my partner’s hand and the overall layout, and although I think it more likely to be able to take 5 quick club tricks, I would still favor the 9 of hearts lead.

BTW, I do not think South should raise to 2 spades with his AJ doubleton since it significantly distorts the opening round of bidding with not enough to gain from it. (I may choose such a bid if East overcalls at the 2 level, but only when 1NT is not available and I thought my hand well worth one bid (also controversial on these 13 cards).

3NT is the kind of bid that is oft taken by a player who thought he was behind in a match.


1. Obviously needing only 9 tricks instead of 10.
2. Sometimes advantaged by a much looser opening lead which is more likely to give a “soft” trick away than would an opening lead vs. a suit contract.


1. Little protection against developing slow tricks before the defense is able to run their best (and usually longest combined suit.
2. Defense against NT is often much more cut and dried than against a suit contract, which often requires careful handling, meaning a good opening lead and deft maneuvering after.