Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.

Alexander Graham Bell

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


South at the Dyspeptics Club was somewhat disappointed to have roughly two aces less than his usual hand-strength, but he still managed to find a way to bid to game. The jump to three spades was invitational and justified only by the trump spots, and North had plenty in hand for his acceptance.

When West led his singleton club seven, declarer put up the king from dummy and dumped his 10 from hand to try to mislead East as to who had the singleton. However, East could see that a club ruff was the most likely way to beat the hand, so he returned the club four, suit preference. If West could ruff, East wanted him to lead diamonds next, the lowerranking side suit.

West happily ruffed in and trustingly led back the diamond five. When East took the ace, his winning continuation was unclear. If West had the diamond king, East needed to return a diamond; if South had the diamond king and West had started with Q-x-x in trumps, a third club was necessary to promote the setting trick in trumps. With a blind guess, he returned a third club. Declarer guessed to ruff high and draw trumps from the top to make his game. Which defender was more to blame?

West should have known that he had no trump honor to promote. He needs to lead the diamond king at trick three, then a second diamond. If East knows South will follow to a third club, he can overtake the king and play on clubs. Otherwise, he will let the diamond king hold.

You have a good hand, but no clear direction to head in and no real guarantee of a club fit. My instinct is to double, suggesting extras, and perhaps typically three diamonds. This is in the hope that partner will be able to convert the double to penalties or repeat one of the black suits if that is appropriate.


♠ K 6
 A Q J 7 5
 Q 3
♣ K Q 8 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♣ Pass Pass 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


Bruce karlsonNovember 28th, 2017 at 1:09 pm

From the cheap seats: Wouldn’t leading the D2 rather than a higher one signal the K at trick 3? That also retains the possibility of keeping declarer’s diamonds from providing a later pitch from dummy. That would not work here but could mean down two, often a top in MP’s.

jim2November 28th, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Sadly, at last year’s Slush Cup, I played this hand against a pair that had a half-stop bid. IIRC, the bidding went:

1H – 1S
2C – 2S
3D – 3N

Apparently, 2N (instead of 3D) would have shown a diamond stopper. Thus, the 3D bid showed a partial stopper and asked the other to bid 3N with either a diamond stopper or a half-stop.

Just another bad board ….

Bobby WolffNovember 28th, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Hi Bruce,

While all you say is true or at least in the running for best defense, in your partnership only your partner, East, knows if South has another club, so he should be the one to decide whether to give you a second club ruff or rather not dream the impossible dream and assume, after declarer had jumped to three spades, not merely responded two, that the better chance is that his partner had failed to lead the king of diamonds, fearing the declarer had only one.

This specific hand, after careful analysis is an example of the defense needing to examine all evidence (of course, including the bidding) and also the simpler but necessary ability to count to 13 in every suit.

To which category should this hand be emphasized in what bridge class? Probably overall defensive analysis, certainly including choice of opening lead (leading the unbid suit, diamonds rather than a doubleton in dummy’s second suit and leaving it up to his partner, after his club ruff to turn down a very unlikely spade holding in order to practically at least attempt to cash a second diamond trick. Leading low indicated a major honor, but without it (only the jack or less) leading a high one, in bridge language (higher level) denying that key honor.

FWIW, both defenders should know, after following the early play that declarer not only was extremely likely to hold both the AQ of spades but also the king of hearts, especially if West had returned a low diamond.

Of such truths is what makes up higher level play, with more card oriented players eligible to better fluidly understand, and even lesser talented (or aware) players able to grasp that concept.

Finally and IMO worth mentioning, just another good example of why IMPs and rubber bridge are so superior to matchpoints, since making and defeating the contract are (or should be) the sole objectives of both sides. When an insignificant overtrick is involved (not so in matchpoints) that trivia should be reduced to what it is, way down the list in importance and what the scoring system in rubber bridge has always emphasized.

End result, matchpoints took on a personality all its own, a game where sheer guesswork (on many occasions) ruling the unjustifiable roost.

Bobby WolffNovember 28th, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

While what you say rings true, there is a bit of salesmanship in your presentation.

First, you have South ignoring his king of hearts and only rebidding his spades at the lowest level, which he would have done without that key king in his partner’s suit. No doubt bridge is not nor has ever been anywhere near an exact science so that bidding space is sometimes taken up in order to show the greater good (this time an invitation rather than just a weaker rebid). Therein North was faced with the ultimatum of bidding what is in front of his nose, 4 spades, rather than foolishly (not so in this case) a very brash 3NT with J94 in the unbid suit.

Nice try, very cute story, great salesmanship, but not passing the important “smell” test. However you are always very entertaining as well as sometimes describing a clever spoof, so please don’t change a hair for me, especially when describing bridge at the Slush Cup.

jim2November 29th, 2017 at 2:30 am

Straaaaange things happen at the Lower Slobbovian Slush Cup, with many under-bids and over-bids alike.

The only thing it can brag about is that it is better than the Mud Cup, which can really smell!


Bobby WolffNovember 29th, 2017 at 3:20 am

Hi Jin2,

And for the few Al Capp fans still left, a Lena by any other name would still smell as sweet.

And for those not on the “in”, hyena is the rose and the rhyme.