Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 19th, 2018

It is true, I never assisted the sun in his rising, but doubt not, it was of the last importance only to be present at its rising.

Henry David Thoreau

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

*Game-forcing spade raise


Here you reach four spades after a straightforward Jacoby two no-trump sequence. Your jump to four spades shows a minimum hand with no shortage, after which North has no reason to look any further. When West leads a trump, you should plan the whole play at trick one.

There appear to be three inevitable losers in the minors; you cannot circumvent them, but must instead give yourself the best chance to avoid a heart loser. Rather than drawing all the trumps at once, duck a club at trick two, leaving all your communications intact.

You win the diamond return, draw the remaining trumps, play the club ace and ruff the last club, then cut loose with a diamond. The best the defenders can do is to cash their diamonds ending in East. If West wins the third diamond, he must concede at once.

But let’s say East arranges to win the third diamond; then he must play a heart, and you can play low and run it around to dummy’s nine. If West produces the 10, you take the ace and lead a heart to your jack. This line succeeds unless West has both the heart queen and 10, a 75 percent line. By contrast, if you play on hearts yourself, you are reduced to simply taking the heart finesse. In doing so, you would turn a 75 percent line into a 50 percent chance.

As an expert once remarked: There is no suit that handles better if you lead it yourself, than if the opponents lead it for you.

Leading a trump is far from safe here (partner rates to have a doubleton or tripleton honor in spades), and neither minor is at all attractive. Since declarer seems pretty weak, I might lead the heart ace, breaking all the rules about leading an unsupported ace, but expecting my partner or dummy to have the heart king.


♠ J 9 4
 A 6 2
 Q 6 3 2
♣ Q 10 7
South West North East
    1 Pass
2 Dbl. Pass 2 ♠
All 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


David WarheitMarch 5th, 2018 at 10:58 am

I see no problem with drawing trumps immediately, so on the principle of getting the children off the street, that’s exactly what I would do, followed by the club duck.

Iain ClimieMarch 5th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

On LWTA, do you think South should have sold out to 2S or doubled trying to push on? I suppose the Law of Total tricks suggests NS have only 8 trumps so there may be a case for passing but I’d certainly be tempted to have another push, especially if Non-Vulnerable. I accept that this could be the way to wind up hitting 4S making against some players, of course. I’m sure we’ve all done that on occasion.



Bobby WolffMarch 5th, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Hi David,

No doubt you are technically correct. However, for it to be wrong, someone, the one winning the club to be West, and to have started with seven of them, or for East to win the club and lead a heart from an original holding of seven hearts or a high diamond while instead, holding seven of them.

What one stands to gain is also negligible, West winning the club and then switching to a heart from the Q10, wrongly thinking, at least this time, that it is now a race to establish two heart tricks before likely a club is established, for a later heart discard.

While my above discussion is a study in bridge minutia, your technique is flawless, while today’s declarer was not, although giving the opponents a chance for a significant error, while doing so with an ultra minimum risk is sometimes not to be sneezed at, nor even coughed.

Finally, on Mondays, we tend to emphasize much less difficult, thus, more basic good bridge, so, at the least, your post might stir up more worthwhile or not, discussion.

Bobby WolffMarch 5th, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, it seems rather timid for South to pass after West has competed, and East has responded, apparently holding, but not necessarily, at least 4 spades.

However, at IMPs even though NS very likely outnumbers EW in hcps, EW compensates for that handicap by, at least likely, holding more of the master suit.

Cutting to the chase, at IMPs or rubber bridge I think passing creates the best chance for a plus score, without the significant risk of competing further, whether 2 spades doubled by them or 3 hearts by us (doubled or not), resulting in points for their side

While, and no doubt, I am promoting conservatism and patience, but having been there, done that, my experience (I think) seems to indicate the above, but at matchpoints, a totally different game, with altogether different strategy required (briefly, frequency of gain trumping amount of gain), doubling (as long as your partnership has discussed these types of doubles as cooperative rather than strictly penalty) is certainly in the ballpark, if not the clear choice of a high-level bridge plurality.

If I haven’t already confused most readers, it isn’t because I haven’t attempted to. And finally and after this hand is over, no doubt, let whichever side got the better result, lead the discussion.