Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

When poisoned, one might as well swallow the plate.

Japanese proverb

N North
None ♠ J 10 9 2
 6 5 4
♣ A J 10 6 2
West East
♠ A
 8 7 3 2
 7 6 5 4 3 2
♣ 8 5
♠ K 7 6 4
 K J 10 9
 J 9 8
♣ K 4
♠ Q 8 5 3
 A Q
 A K Q
♣ Q 9 7 3
South West North East
    Pass Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♣ Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass


Today’s deal from the 2017 NEC Trophy in Japan saw several declarers struggling in a delicate four spade game here.

Where Cenk Tunkok was declarer, West led a diamond against four spades, won his spade ace and shifted to hearts. Declarer won in hand and played a spade, which was ducked, and another spade. East won his king, and after some reflection continued with a heart.

Declarer knew from East’s opening bid that the club finesse was losing, but if he had taken it, he would have been home. Instead, he imagined East had begun with 4–4-4-1 shape, so he led a club to the ace and another club. A third heart from East now left him stranded, since he had no communication left in clubs.

Nicely defended, but in the other room, where East had not bid, Sally Brock led a heart, and declarer won in hand and knocked out the spade ace, won the heart return, and played a second trump. When the nine held, South could see that a third trump would be fatal if the club king was wrong. Instead, he crossed to hand with a diamond and passed the club nine, and Barry Myers ducked smoothly.

Declarer had no reason not to repeat the finesse, but now Myers won, cashed the spade king and played the third heart, again leaving declarer without the communications to draw trumps.

Curiously, ducking the club was an unnecessary risk here, since winning and playing back either a club or a heart would have been good enough to beat the game, regardless of what declarer did.

Your major-suit honors appear to be working overtime here. RHO is relatively unlikely to have three spades (as he did not make a support redouble), so you can at least make an invitation to game with a call of two no-trump. In fact, I’m torn between this and a bid of three no-trump, given that my minor-suit builders look so useful.


♠ K 7 6 4
 K J 10 9
 J 9 8
♣ K 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 28th, 2018 at 9:44 am

Hi Bobby,

What was the auction in the room where East opened, please? I think that shown reflects the second room but if East started with 1D (I suspect he actually opened 1H), West is likely to put up a barrage while a mini NT will get doubled and see West escaping. In either case, reaching 4S could be trickier although 3N is better anyway.



bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I believe that East indeed opened 1 heart, South doubled and West jumped to 3 hearts. North then made a responsive double, in their methods showing 4 in the other major.

South then converted to 4 spades, likely thinking that with his strength the 4-4 fit was safer than 3NT. On another day and with East holding 5 hearts, he might have been right, but not today, since NS could make 9 easy tricks, outside the spade suit, and, of course not have to cope with the 4-1 trump break.

At least to me, if EW choose to open balanced 11 hcp hands with nary an ace, it should be lead directing (KJ109 instead of J98), suggesting that “when poisoned one might have well swallow the plate”, but again, not today.

Dame Fortune is indeed fickle, but instead, and while playing our great game, in full control.

bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Hi again Iain,

Furthermore, what happened to NS by not instead, but suggested by you, bidding 3NT, could be compared to this somewhat morbid parable:

Little Willy, from the mirror, sucked the mercury clear off, thinking in his childish error, it would cure the whooping cough. Next day at the funeral, Willy’s mother said to Mrs. Brown, “Twas a chilly day for Willy when the mercury went down”.

Iain ClimieFebruary 28th, 2018 at 5:34 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and I’m guessing the parable is Victorian. They did seem to have a gruesome aspect to their literature, moralising and sayings. Consider “The burned hand learns best” and Hilaire Belloc’s “Matilda Who Told Lies, And Was Burned To Death”. Cheerful stuff.



bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Hi Iain,

Little doubt, do I have, as to your historical guide, what could be aptly called “gallows humor”.

Furthermore, my lifetime experiences convince me that if I were asked what I thought to be the widest differences between countries and, of course cultures, my reply would be: While I was nowhere near an educated enough source to venture a reply, nevertheless (and at least to myself), the vast differences in senses of humor would be my immediate choice, with a significant gap between that and whatever happened to be selected second.

It wouldn’t surprise me if well-run and educated polls on that subject would suggest that variance may even have resulted, or at least greatly contributed to .. major wars, even worldwide ones, over the many million years of this planet’s existence.

Actually, after re-reading the above paragraph I am taking direct umbrage against myself to what certainly appears a gigantic exaggeration, however………..if all of us, especially I, can learn not to take ourselves so seriously, well .. who knows?