Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Cleverness is not wisdom. And not to think mortal thoughts is to see few days.


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


The main teams event at last year’s Yeh Bros Cup was won by Eric Kokish’s team. In an early knockout match, this board generated a big swing for them. With two deals to go, they had just taken the lead in the match, and their teammates had defeated six spades here. But as will become apparent, even four spades was high enough.

Roy Welland led a top club against four spades. South won and cashed the spade ace, then carefully did not play the spade king next — he needed the reentry to dummy, and if he made that play, East would two diamonds, win the third and play back a trump, cutting declarer off from the diamonds.

But when declarer led a trump to the queen at trick three, that should also have been fatal; maybe he should have followed Andrew Robson’s incisive bridge tip: “If they pre-empt and lead their suit, play them for a singleton trump.” In fact, it is best to play top diamonds after one trump. Even if spades are 3-2 and West gets a ruff, you still have 10 tricks, in the form of three diamonds, two aces and five trumps.

When South went after diamonds at trick four, East should have set the game by shifting to hearts. After all, if partner didn’t have a top heart, could the game ever be set? When East actually returned a club, declarer had the tempo to pitch two hearts on the diamonds, and was back to 10 tricks.

You have a little too much to pass here. It feels as if a double should be card-showing, and you will be happy to play in whatever strain your partner chooses (or to defend if your partner has a balanced hand with three clubs). There is no need to rebid the spades; partner knows you have at least four of them.


♠ J 8 4 2
 Q 10 4
 A 4 3
♣ 8 4 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. 1
1 ♠ Pass Pass 2 ♣

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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


jim2September 27th, 2018 at 12:12 pm

I think I would have played it differently from what both what happened at the table and what the column text recommends.

At trick 2, cash one high trump on the Board, and lead a second round to the 10S in the closed hand:

1) If 10S loses, then trump are 3-2 and I can afford one club ruff on the Board and still draw trump and establish/run the diamonds (the closed hand can ruff a third club lead). 3S + 1H + 4D + 1C + 1C ruff = 10

2) If the 10S holds and West follows, then cash QS and play diamonds. 4S + 1H + 4D + 1C + 1C ruff = 11

3) If the 10S holds and West shows out, shift to diamonds and discard a heart from the Board on the second club. Declarer can then ruff any third round in hand, draw trump, and run diamonds. 4S + 1H + 4D + 1C = 10

4) If East shows out on the second trump, win QS and start on diamonds. Discard heart from Board on second club,and ruff the third in hand with the 10S. Now, finesse West in trump and run diamonds. 4S + 1H + 4D + 1C = 10

jim2September 27th, 2018 at 12:39 pm

The worst case situation appears to be Case #4 and double-dummy defense. That is, West has 4S including the missing Jack, and East wins the AD on the third round and shifts to a heart, NOT a club. (So declarer does not get an easy cub ruff)

Declarer can still prevail on many layouts, however, because West started with a maximum of 2 cards in the red suits (four spades and 7+ clubs). Since three rounds of diamonds have been played in this scenario, declarer knows the likely layout when East shifts to a heart.

Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

My worry here is that West has SJx, takes the second trump with a bemused look and switches to a heart. Aren’t you now off 1D, 2H and 1S before you get your 10 tricks? Cashing 1S and then bashing down a top diamond seems to work unless spades are 5-0 or East has 5D (although I suppose West could have a heavy pre-empt with the DA, win, switch to a heart and East might have long hearts but only 2 diamonds). I think the D at Trick 3 after both defenders have followed to one trump looks the most pragmatic line on the assumption that East has fair length in diamonds and West won’t have 4S. If the D is taken quickly, take the H switch and play a spade to the King, then draw trumps (unless West has 4) and run for home. If East has 4D, you have a problem if West has 2S. Trickier than I thought ….

The gremlins ate the duck today, though (last line 2nd paragraph).



David WarheitSeptember 27th, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Jim2: On your first possibility, after W wins SJ, W leads a C. Dummy ruffs, and now S has to play D, otherwise, if he draws trump, dummy is out of trump, so all the opponents have to do is duck the first 2 rounds of D. But if he does play D, the opponents duck the first D, win the 2d D, and lead a 3d round of D which gets ruffed. The opponents now lead H, and S must lose one more trick.

jim2September 27th, 2018 at 1:45 pm

I think if West has Jx of spades, my lines would indeed be in trouble on an unlikely heart shift. If West won JS and led a club, however, I think the odds favor East having the AD and diamond length.

Thus, once the club is ruffed and diamonds started, there would be no ruff. That is, West would be out of trump and East would win the AD at some point. A club return would let declarer ruff in hand. A heart shift might let declarer prevail on some layouts with the right guess.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your play of at trick two, leading a spade to the jack has much to recommend it, if only to adhere to Andy Robson’s famous quote about when to play for a preemptor’s singleton trump.

However, if and when your ten of spades loses to the jack, there are perhaps too many heart holdings, at least fairly likely, enabling a heart switch to put paid to your contract.

That fact does not mean that your line is not a good one, even the best, but my head, probably like yours, would just hurt too much to even attempt to decide which is the better percentage to succeed.

But if you brought back -100 on this hand with West holding: s. Jx, h. xx, d. xx, c. KQ10xxxx
no doubt one or both of your teammates will ask: “How did West know to lead a heart against your spade game?”

Finally, when playing with caustic teammates (not always pleasant), instead of the normal priorities for success, 1. play intelligent and hard, 2. concentrate and count every hand, 3. Take no prisoners, but always play ethically, the new #1 would be, if at all possible, and before the comparison of results, search and find valid and believable excuses for poor (terrible) boards.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Many redundancies are caused by that dreaded occurrence of “crossed in the mail”.

In American football it could be cited as a 15 year penalty for “piling on”.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Sorry, since a 15 year penalty, instead of the intended 15 yards, is at least 5 years too much for committing, even bridge felonies.