Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Atticus Finch

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


Today’s deal sees a point of general principles, together with the challenging issue of trying to use empathy at the table. As a defender, you need to put yourself in declarer’s position and try to work out what he would have done with certain hands.

The first issue arises in the auction. East should not open with a pre-empt of course, or come in over one no-trump. But balancing over two hearts, while not without risk, makes sense, either at pairs, or non-vulnerable at teams or rubber. More to the point, West must not re-compete to three spades here; his partner has already bid every single one of his values for him!

Against three hearts, you should lead the king in partner’s suit, not the ace, even if your agreement is to lead ace from ace-king in general. Regardless, West will probably continue with two more rounds of spades, and declarer will ruff and lead a low heart from hand.

West wins with the queen, exits with a club and … surely you didn’t fall for that as East, did you? When declarer leads a low heart from hand at trick four and West plays the queen, what should East imagine is going on? Surely if declarer had king-sixth or -seventh of hearts, he would cross to dummy in a minor to play trumps? The only reason for leading trumps from hand is that the whole deal looks very much like the diagram. East must overtake the trump, lead a fourth spade and score his side’s trumps separately for down one.

This is the bidding in the diagrammed deal, but I would recommend going through the forcing no-trump rather than raising hearts (assuming you play raises as constructive). The sterile distribution and weak trumps suggest taking the pessimistic position. I agree that this is close; make the trumps 10-9-third, and I might take the opposite path.


♠ J 9 5
 9 7 4
 K J 8 5
♣ K 10 4
South West North East
    1 Pass

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David WarheitJanuary 24th, 2018 at 10:29 am

After ruffing the 3d spade, S knows he needs hearts to be 2-2, and he also knows there is a danger of W ruffing a 4th round of spades. So I think he should lead a D to dummy and then lead a low heart, hoping essentially for hearts to lie as they do and for E to play the jack.

ClarksburgJanuary 24th, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Questions arising from a hand selected for our pre-Club-game seminar:

Matchpoints, not VUL against VUL
RHO opens a strong 1NT. Would you “interfere over their 1NT” holding
Q9653 K942 7 AQ6 ?

Your LHO opens a strong 1NT. Partner and RHO both Pass.
Would you interfere holding:
J42 J AJ86 108752 ?


Bobby WolffJanuary 24th, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Hi David,

Yes, as usual your analysis stands at attention, especially to the psychology of at least, as declarer, trying to disguise the strength of his emaciated trump suit.

Although, it seems better bidding for South to pass East’s balance of 2 spades, but North, instead of South, and because of his three trumps and maximum outside values, now carry on to three hearts.

Of course, South should probably lead the club queen to dummy’s king since East could have s. Q10xxx, h. AJ, d. x, c. Jxxxx allowing a belated diamond ruff, but that is a different subject.

Always thanks for suggesting better ways to build the bridge mousetrap and again illustrates just what a large percentage of hands, bid, defended and declared can be better perfected.

Bobby WolffJanuary 24th, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

When holding your first hand; s. Q9xxx, h. K9xx, d. x, c. AQx, yes particularly NV vs. V at matchpoints enter with whatever bid your partnership uses to show major suits. The only bad news, not nearly strong enough to deny your entrance, but certainly not perfect is the defect of having longer spades than hearts (instead of the opposite) since partner with 3-3, not an uncommon holding, as his major suit holdings will (and should) always prefer hearts (regardless of strength) which, of course, could result in fewer tricks taken by declarer if allowed to play that contract. Change that bidder to 5 hearts and 4 spades instead and, at least to me, become the poster child for that bridge action.

With your second hand, s. Jxx, h. J, d. AJ8x, c. 10xxxx and yes, I would then make a minor suit TO (both hands fit what I have played almost all my bridge playing career, a simple 2 clubs showing the minors and 2 diamonds showing the majors with 2NT showing a good hand with 5-5 holding one major and one minor*). Being in balancing position (4th seat), partner is going to have a decent hand (at least 8+ points) and figures to have, on both of your two considerations, at least some support and likely at least four of one of the two suits suggested.

A further thought would include, the better the opposition the more important it becomes to bid, since defending 1NT instead doesn’t bode well for your matchpoint result with a good declarer at the helm.

IOW, run the risk of a penalty double rather than die without your boots on and even if you get doubled by good opponents that is, in no way a sure sign of an impending disaster since IMO in both cases you are well within the hand you are about to lay down.

Furthermore the opponents are likely in their best contract, 1NT, which can be devastating to their opponents since it is a high scoring one, especially when their opponents have to make a blind opening lead when they meekly pass it out.

Rarely when conservatism is chosen when accepting a low level bridge contract, of course, especially against good opponents, I have little to no respect for partnerships who regularly do. No choices ALWAYS work, but to join the fray is by far, at least my choice, the best way to go.

*Responses to the 2NT action over the opponents 1NT showing a major and a minor 5-5 or better need to be worked out, but are more simple than one may expect. If one holds 3-3 in both majors bid 3 hearts which asks partner to either pass or correct to 3 spades, but if holding a short major then bid your lowest acceptable minor suit, usually 3 clubs, but might be 3 diamonds and if partner does not have diamonds he bids his major.

Try it and find out for yourself how well it works, unless you feel as one of my long ago partners once answered me when I asked her why she didn’t trump a card defensively I had led (when she, of course, did not have any and also had therwise worthless trumps), “Bobby, I was just too tired to trump”.

JudyJanuary 24th, 2018 at 5:48 pm

I can attest by my good fortune to be partnered by (and married to) Bobby for fourteen years that his treatment of bidding over opponents’ 1NT OPENINGS is marvelous. Not only is it successful .. but is so easy to remember! Like they say .. try it, you’ll like it.

By the way, Bobby overlooked adding that after passing originally, a reopening double is artificial and shows club length since you could not have a good enough hand to double.

Bill CubleyJanuary 24th, 2018 at 6:17 pm


The lady who was too tired to trump has a much, much better excuse than had she trumped your ace. 😉

Bobby WolffJanuary 24th, 2018 at 8:48 pm

Hi Bill,

Perhaps so, but a more accurate, not to mention melodic, description might be, “two wrongs (using tired as an excuse, and not knowing that an ace is high) making a right”.

David WarheitJanuary 25th, 2018 at 7:18 am

My suggestion that S lead a diamond to dummy since E might have HAJ should also have included HKJ where it would be almost impossible for E to play the HK. I am also convinced that it is better to get to dummy in diamonds than in clubs, since leading the club Q to the K should be a huge wakeup call to E, namely that S has no losers outside of the trump suit, whereas leading a diamond to the K doesn’t carry such an obvious message. If S had held the A and a small club, then of course I would have led a club to dummy, but leading the Q and overtaking it with the K is a huge shoutout.

Bobby WolffJanuary 25th, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you make a reasonable case for slightly preferring a diamond to dummy, rather than a club overtake of the queen, in order not to give the show away to an ever observant East, who, would then be better placed to envision South with the actual hand he held.

From your example, at least to me, illustrates what high-level bridge is all about, continual and consistent thinking, with attention to detail, sometimes playing straight on while at other times striving for perfection with each play, using all evidence gleaned while at the same moment, attempting to obfuscate telltale information to your worthy opponents.

Call it problem solving and by so doing prepares a younger player for what he will likely face later in life in so many non-bridge related experiences. The side benefit becomes enormous, rendering it, in debatable choices, not so much always being 100% right (IMO, practically impossible), but rather the thought process required in the planning.

Being forewarned is the goal, in the always attempted act of, at least trying to be, forearmed which often is the small difference between eventual victory and defeat.

Thanks for the time spent in your thinking and above all, taking the time to contribute it.