Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

One never knows whether people have principles on principle or whether for their own personal satisfaction.

Karel Capek

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


The easiest way to score tricks is with honor cards and long suits. But sometimes the spot-cards can be critical, as is the case today.

When North opened the bidding with one diamond, South responded one no-trump. North overbid slightly, perhaps, when he jumped to game, but if he had invited game, South would have accepted happily enough.

West led the heart two, and declarer rightly inserted the jack, in case West had underled the king and queen. He ducked the king and the heart continuation, but won the third heart, discarding a club from dummy. South could count on eight tricks, with the diamond suit his only chance for a ninth.

He opted for the simple route of four rounds of clubs followed by the three top diamonds, but when the diamonds failed to break, he had to concede defeat.

The same contract was reached at another table. Here, South won the third round of hearts and also discarded a club from dummy. But this declarer saw the additional chance from his diamond intermediates. So, at trick four, he played the diamond eight to the ace and followed with the diamond king, observing East’s jack with interest, and being careful to unblock his own diamond nine.

Next came four rounds of clubs, and when West showed out on the third, the combination of the fourth-highest lead, the count in clubs and the fall of the diamond jack persuaded declarer to finesse dummy’s diamond seven to land his game.

It feels like you have too much to pass. While the opponents might have come to rest in a 4-3 fit, it sounds a little more likely that they have located an eight-card fit, so you have just enough to act, with a reasonable expectation of finding a fit of your own. I would bid one spade rather than one no-trump, since you might find you can take heart ruffs in dummy.


♠ A 10 9 4
 K 8 6 3
 J 2
♣ 7 5 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 Dbl.
Pass 1 Pass 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


BobliptonApril 11th, 2018 at 11:34 am

A good call by the second south, but a bit lucky. Were I West, dealt the Spade 4 instead of the Diamond 4, I would still have opened with the low Heart. Perhaps West’s discards were revealing.


bobbywolffApril 11th, 2018 at 11:49 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, of course, however you probably meant dealt the spade 4 instead of the diamond 10.

Likely most experienced players would prefer to lead from Q10xx rather than K10xx, if for only the possible advantage of catching only the major suit jack with partner. However, trying to scientifically decide what works more often involves itself with so many factors, with not only card combinations but the specific positive and negative inferences from the bidding or lack of it as well as sometimes including the tempo of passes.

One thing for sure, at least to my view. In discussions involving declarer priorities, the best policy is to discuss only right views, so that a winner, not the opposite, is preferred to speak.

BobliptonApril 11th, 2018 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for fixing my error, Bobby. I should have written Diamond Ten instead of Diamond 4.

While you are certainly correct that, in teaching people the correct way of thinking about playing hands, the rewards should be stressed, I think a major part of the joy of the game is the subtlety and the details, and, indeed, the fact that you can do everything exactly right and get a lousy result, and do everything exactly wrong and get a great result. If, as beginners, we did not occasionally get to bloody the noses of those whom we knew to be incomparably our betters, would we have bothered to persevere?


Bruce karlsonApril 11th, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Agree. I got a few good boards of late via end plays that I saw after a few tricks and managed to properly skewer my LHO for good boards. Playing with very new player, I executed Deshapelles (sp) coup]. She did not understand what happened but but I emphatically Agee that the occasional triumph makes it easy to keep on slogging. Now if I could play defense…lol

bobbywolffApril 11th, 2018 at 6:37 pm

Hi Bob & Bruce,

Yes Bob, you are correct in all you say about enjoying the subtlety and details of our undeniably great game, but I wholeheartedly recommend adding tradition to your definition as well.

And Bruce to your experience of executing a Deschapelles Coup which would be defined as the lead of an unsupported high honor (usually a king or a queen) in order to establish an entry into partner’s hand (where, at least theoretically, good tricks wait) or possibly instead a Merrimac Coup, similar, but instead the sacrifice of a high card, with the object of knocking out a vital entry in an opponent’s hand, usually the dummy, before declarer has had a chance to establish a long suit.

An example for both might be, while sitting East and holding the K10xx, with the dummy North (RHO) holding only the AJ and beloved partner holding the Queen leading the king enabling partner to later get in with his queen to cash the setting trick and in the case of Deschapelles, and while dummy, when defending a NT contract, held KQJ10xx of a yet to be established suit (with the defense possessing the ace and enough little ones to cut declarer off from running them) the defense would be said to be executing the Merrimac Coup by removing the vital entry to dummy, especially if the dummy didn’t hold the jack, but even though the defense may give a trick or two away by so doing (declarer having the queen or even the queen jack), the value of not having that awesome looking KQJ10 suit chalking up tricks is well worth it.

Finally the Deschapelles coup was named after a French bridge player (or more likely Whist, the grandfather of Contract bridge), many years ago, while the Merrimac Coup was somehow coupled with it being named that, after a battle royal with another ship called the Monitor, during a long ago war. I suspect one or the other, won the battle, by breaking the other’s communication with its sister ships.

No doubt as one ages, he or she becomes more interested in history, particularly when the subject is one to which he loves.

The knowledge of such events seem never to be forgotten.

Iain ClimieApril 11th, 2018 at 10:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sadly I think I can remember Monitor vs Merrimac without looking it up. They fought each other inconclusively during the US civil war. Monitor (Union) looked like a floating ironing board with a rotating turret with 2 heavy guns and had a very shallow draught. Merrimac (Confederancy) was more conventional looking with sloping armoured sides, a number of guns and (I think) a ram bow. She created havoc at first but couldn’t manage to do much to monitor. An interest in naval history was yet another aspect of an almost completely misspent childhood; learning to play cards was one of the exceptions!



bobbywolffApril 12th, 2018 at 12:01 am

Hi Iain,

It’s pretty impressive for you to know so much about our not so civil war, since even on our side of the pond, far from everyone could begin to quote chapter and verse, much less remember, the squabble between the Monitor and the Merrimac.

Reminds me of a blurb in a leading English newspaper in London, when the founder and boss of the Aces (a business man named Ira Corn) bought at auction, the last original copy of our Declaration of Independence (#16), found in a dusty piece of luggage in Philadelphia just about the time the Aces got started in Dallas, paying $404,000.

The story line on the first page of that edition blazoned, “Wealthy Texan Buys Rebel Document”. Ira sold it a few years later to the city of Dallas for a half/million, but not before getting needed publicity for our project.