Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 26th, 2018

The notion that one can discover large patterns or regularities in the procession of historical events is naturally attractive to those who are impressed by the success of the natural sciences in classifying, correlating and, above all, predicting.

Isaiah Berlin

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


All the deals this week comes from last year’s summer NABC in Toronto. This one cropped up in the Wernher Open Pairs.

You’d expect three no-trump by South to be the normal spot here, and on a heart lead, the defenders have no real prospect of more than four tricks when both red suits behave. Note, however, that on the first round of diamonds declarer should lead a small card to his eight or 10, not his king.

But a curious ending arose after a club lead. Declarer ducked, then won the second club. He now crossed to a spade to lead a low diamond to the 10, losing to the queen. He won the next club, pitching a heart from dummy, crossed to the spade king and advanced the diamond two, to the jack, king and ace. When West cashed a club, declarer had to be careful with his next discard from dummy, which now held two spades, two hearts and two diamonds.

In order to maintain flexibility, South must discard a diamond from dummy — but it must specifically be the nine; otherwise, a heart to the king and ace cuts declarer’s communications. However, if you unblock dummy’s diamond nine, you can always arrange to test spades before falling back on the heart finesse.

Note also that the defenders should have ducked the second diamond. Now if declarer plays a third diamond rather than testing spades, West can cash the club winner. South will then have to pitch a spade or a top heart from dummy before he knows which major is behaving.

You have the right shape for a takeout double, promising both majors. All that is standing between you and action is the absence of high cards, but should that matter? I don’t think so. You would have gladly responded to one club, so you should equally gladly double here and get your partner into the action. You’d rather have a better hand, but if wishes were horses…


♠ J 7 5 3
 K 10 9 8
 J 6
♣ J 10 9
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1

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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 WarheitAugust 9th, 2018 at 9:22 am

How about: S wins the first C, crosses to a S and leads a D to the 8. W wins the Q and leads another a C. S wins and now, with the C suit blocked, leads a S to dummy and leads another D. Now, with the C suit blocked, S can see if S run, and when they don’t, he takes the winning H finesse. In this line of play, S makes use of all of his resources, including specifically the C8, & he doesn’t have to make a difficult decision about discarding on the 4th C.

bobbywolffAugust 9th, 2018 at 10:32 am

Hi David,

It certainly looks to me that your declarer line is superior to the one suggested in today’s column.

A possible exception might be if EW are not playing 4th highest on opening lead, but rather either attitude (low means I like my suit) or 3rd and 5th wherein the deuce of clubs may mean 5 clubs and the second round entry in diamonds, particularly the QJx when East should then rise with his ace and lead a 2nd club.

However that would probably mean that West, the clever rascal, had led low, originally from QJ10xx, possible, but not likely. Dame Fortune dealt declarer the 87 of clubs for a reason. TOKCBD-theory of key card(s) being dealt.

Especially if we are to believe Isaiah Berlin’s timely and practical quote, which was no doubt made, not considering our great game, but in reality and IMO very appropriate to often apply.

As always, thanks for your topical analysis, which often, like today, is a bell ringer.

A V Ramana RaoAugust 9th, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
I too feel that South can win the first club considering different layouts . And coming to play in diamonds, I think dummy can lead nine of diamonds on the first round of diamonds which would circumvent any inconvenience at a later stage even if South elects to duck the initial club lead

bobbywolffAugust 9th, 2018 at 4:35 pm


Yes, winning or ducking the first club may or may not, probably not matter, but in any event it may be close and dependent on whether those specific opponents are reliable instead of “tricky”.

However I think a lower diamond is preferable on the first lead from dummy, since that trick will be lost anyway, and then leading a higher one the second time from dummy, just in case the diamonds are originally 4-1 onside with a singleton Q or J offside so that we can stay in dummy if the unexpected occurs.

However, it is very unlikely to matter and thus
becomes only an issue of technique, but like
other common playing card decisions, a good idea to understand the “better” way to get oneself in position to continuously stand tall in helping oneself in the best percentage manner.

Thanks for getting directly involved with even the nitty-gritty of when and what to play. Little by little all classes of players from beginners to the very top can continue to grow how to play our great game better from the “womb to the tomb”.

A V Ramana RaoAugust 9th, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Actually I missed it but I think seven from dummy on first round of diamonds would do the job perfectly as next time dummy can lead nine

bobbywolffAugust 9th, 2018 at 6:44 pm


Yes, for technical purposes, the seven is perhaps the perfect start, allowing you to follow next with the nine (to allow staying in dummy, without fear of losing its value when, and if, it is covered. The only drawback in such (which will be very unlikely to occur) sometimes playing a precise card from the open hand (dummy) allows astute defenders, to more or less know exactly the declarer’s holding, this time by inference suggesting holding the eight.

The above is almost impossible to be of much or any value to wary opponents, but sometimes it works better to keep them off your toes, by varying your tactics, when it appears to not make any difference. IOW a low one to the 10 originally is best for deception so why not here, since it is close to certain that play will not win the trick and if it does, it, like chicken soup, cannot hurt.

What we are discussing is not necessarily worthy to talk about, but to get in the habit of being unpredictable does have some value.