Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you don’t have a regime.

Jon Stewart

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


In “Keys to Winning Bridge,” Frank Stewart debunks several of the game’s longstanding myths. One of the principles of defense in Whist, as espoused in the eighteenth century, was: When in doubt, win the trick. But as Stewart comments, though Edmond Hoyle’s axiom may have seemed valid 250 years ago, we have moved on from there.

Let’s take a look at three no-trump here. West leads the spade two, and dummy’s jack wins. Declarer continues with a low diamond from dummy, diamond to East’s eight and his own king. If West takes his ace and leads, say, the spade queen, declarer wins and ducks a diamond. He takes the next trick and runs the diamonds, winning three diamonds, three spades, two clubs and a heart.

West should refuse to take the diamond ace, ducking as smoothly as he can. Declarer may lead another diamond and play low from dummy, hoping East held the doubleton ace-eight, but even if South reads the position correctly, he will never get more than two diamond tricks in any case, thanks to the absence of entries to dummy.

Let’s contrast the position if the king and jack of clubs were switched, so that West could be reasonably confident that dummy had an entry on the side. Now if you duck the diamond, you turn two sure tricks into one, so at matchpoints it may be right to win the trick. It would be even more difficult to plan the defense if dummy’s club jack were the queen. Now you can’t be sure whether dummy has an entry or not; but fortunately that isn’t our problem today.

There are times when you redouble with 10+ points but on most of those occasions you are either short in, or do not have too many values in, your partner’s suit. Here it seems unlikely you can extract a real penalty from all three side suits, so I would simply bid one spade and allow the auction to develop as if the opponents had not acted.


♠ Q 10 8 2
 K 10 2
 A J 9
♣ 8 7 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 Dbl.

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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


jim2November 21st, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Also interesting are the lines if West elects to lead the 8C.

Bobby WolffNovember 21st, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

Oh my goodness, you are so right! Once a club is led, as it might be, by a conservative soul, who does not want to lead away from his honors while defending against a 2NT opening bid on his right.

Continuing on with this fantasy beginning, East would do well to play the nine when and if declarer ducks the club in dummy, so that he will be on lead to switch to hearts, should declarer ever duck his high club (at that point).

No doubt that defense would scuttle 3NT and, no doubt, even 2NT, depending on exactly how the declarer would go about playing the hand.

While often the side which breaks a new suit, runs a significant risk of losing a trick by having his side play 1st and 3rd to the trick instead of waiting for declarer to break new suits wherein the defenders then sit in the cat bird seat of 2nd and 4th.

However, as bridge itself is want to do, this hand (defensive heart distribution lends itself to advantage defense, if East is able to start a low heart through declarer.

I have mentioned before that believe it or not, a noted English bridge author (at that time) named John Brown, mentioned back in the 1930’s in his absolutely great book called “Winning Defence” commented that if a very average player would get off to the most effective opening lead (here, as you suggest a club) his side, in spite of not being nearly good enough to otherwise beat their much better opponents, would instead, win every World Bridge Championship.

A very bold statement, but one I would tend to agree with 100%. And, if so, the sad thing about it, is to then understand how horrible private cheating signals between a partnership can render bridge competition if allowed to exist, making the severe penalty of “barred forever” to anyone who is caught doing so a mandatory penalty, with almost no exceptions.

The world bridge executives. especially those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, must understand that penalty MUST exist to prevent that, no less than despicable practice, to not only stop, but NEVER start, otherwise we have no legitimate game to play.

Strong rant to follow, but, also keep in mind that deciding to lead the eight of clubs is not, in itself, enough evidence (or even close) to decide that partnership is indulging in illegal communication. However, when wannabe high-level players invariably select the most effective opening leads, which are considered somewhat unusual by their peers, the flag above begins waving as a warning to slowly but completely monitor their actions, especially when playing in important events.

Sorry for the side track, but perhaps others may think it interesting.

As always, thanks for your lead-in, which invariably commands respect from me when you do.