Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.

Lao Tzu

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

*weak with either spades or


The most challenging defense of the week from the US Women’s Trials in 1997 came Lisa Berkowitz’s way; put yourself in the West seat and see what you think.

As West you are defending against four spades after North has opened a multi two diamonds to show a weak two in hearts or spades, and South has jumped directly to four spades, to play. Partner leads the diamond king, and when you play the diamond queen, continues with the diamond five. Your jack holds the trick as declarer follows with the four and 10; over to you.

I do not know how to resolve the problem here. But it seems as if partner has led their middle from their remaining three small diamonds, in a position where the size of their card could be argued to be suit preference. Given that they had a choice of small cards, logic implies that her leading the highest of the small diamonds would ask for a heart ruff, and the low card would have called for a club.

Assuming partner might have shifted to a singleton heart at trick two, there is at least a case for the winning defense, of shifting to a trump. Berkowitz did this, and not surprisingly generated a game swing as a result, since in the other room West had led a top diamond and shifted to a heart at trick two, trying to cut dummy off from the hearts. As you can see, this was very much the wrong moment for that play.

Hearts looks like the right place to play here, so the question is whether to bid two hearts, three hearts or four hearts. The latter would be wildly optimistic, and unilateral, since partner could always raise three hearts to four if appropriate. Here, though, I think I would go low with a call of two hearts; your partner’s bidding and the opponent’s double are all danger signals.


♠ 6
 A K Q 9 7 5
 9 7 6 2
♣ 9 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Dbl.
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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


David WarheitMay 31st, 2017 at 10:38 am

In the third room, W started by cashing the DAK and then continued with a third D, ruffed by E. Down one. This line works on the actual lie of the cards and also if E has SQx CKQxx, so I think it is at least as good as any other line of defense.

Bobby WolffMay 31st, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Hi David,

No doubt your judgment about West continuing a high diamond at trick 2 and then playing a 3rd one hoping for a winning uppercut from partner (or even partner’s queen being a singleton and thus start out with three diamond tricks instead of just two..

Hands like these where declarer merely jumps to the final contract, are often the most difficult to defend since it is often almost blind flying for the defense.

Obviously it is close to impossible for West to determine that declarer is void in hearts, but at least some hopeful defensive plan is better than just proceeding with only very unlikely to impossible stabs. Therefore, at least to me, playing a 2nd high diamond, rather than obeying partner’s presumed preference to underlead your ace of diamonds (him playing the queen at trick one)), at trick two seems and should feel, on this hand, the right thing to do.

Finally, and from a defensive point of view if East had held: s. 9xx, h. Jxxx, d. QJ, c. AKxx leaving declarer with: s. AKQ10xxx, h. x, d. xx, c. Q10x he should prefer his partner to switch to his 4th best club (or whatever defensive protocol they play) and then after East cashes his 2 club tricks (to which West should contribute his jack, denying the queen), switch back to diamonds for the setting trick. However, I am aware that West will need to cash his second diamond trick if East was dealt the singleton jack.

Yes bridge can be difficult and complicated (especially defense), but above all, it should ALWAYS be numerically logical with partners legally helping each other, by each doing his share to pave the way for success.

Doing so, even on only one magnificent challenge in the middle of an otherwise relative boring session, should be enough to convince an otherwise doubter just how much our beautiful game has to offer with both numerical logic and the necessity for consistent clarity with partnership defense.