Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Life is one long struggle in the dark.


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


In today’s deal from the annals of the Dyspeptics Club, North felt obligated to double four hearts for takeout, a reasonable action despite holding only three cards in the other major, over which South leapt ebulliently to slam. When dummy came down, South uttered the words no partner of his would ever want to hear: “Might have missed it, partner.”

He won the heart lead and drew three rounds of trumps, his natural optimism abating slightly when they failed to break. Then he could see nothing better than taking the diamond finesse, and his discomfiture was complete when the diamond queen was offside.

Before he could expostulate on his ill luck, North cut him short by remarking that if he had focused on the bad breaks instead of trying to make the overtrick, he might have emerged with less egg on his face. Do you see what he meant?

South should have ruffed a heart at the second trick. Then he could cash the three top spades and go after clubs. It wouldn’t have mattered if East had been able to ruff in, since he would have had nothing but diamonds left to lead into dummy’s tenace. If East didn’t ruff, then when declarer finished running clubs, he could cross to the diamond ace and exit in trump, throwing East in to lead diamonds and concede the contract.

The contract cannot be made if East starts with three hearts and the guarded diamond queen, since he can exit in hearts after ruffing a club.

The fact that your opponents have bid and raised clubs makes your hand better by suggesting shortness in clubs opposite, even if your partner may still have as many as three clubs. So, it is certainly worth a try for game, and bidding three diamonds will let your partner ascertain whether his cards are working.


♠ A K Q 6 4
 A 7 5 4
♣ Q 9 5
South West North East
      1 ♣
1 ♠ 2 ♣ 2 ♠ Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bobby WolffFebruary 13th, 2019 at 10:04 am

To everyone,

Of course if West had started with:
s. 9
h. KQJ10xxx
d. Qxx
c. xx

leaving East with: s. J108x, h. xxx, d. xx, c. 10xxx South would have made a grave mistake with his throw-in instead of a simple working diamond finesse. What are the clues in making this critical decision?

1. The signal at trick one from East, which tends to be true since East, at this very early juncture, is trying (and likely should be) to inform partner the proper count, in case it mattered later to West in his discarding.

2. The bidding of an opening four hearts by West instead of only three while of course, also holding the Qxx of diamonds.
If the vulnerability had been only NS with EW NV the losing playing option for declarer would have made more sense, but even that fact would have to do with declarer’s knowledge of West’s attitude toward the proclivity of bidding em up instead of only half measures.

While playing in a major tournament against unknown players this second fact is indeed sometimes difficult to decide. However the original signal plus the likelihood of West only opening 3 hearts without the eighth heart with equal NV status would seem to be substantial enough to rest this critical decision.

Again, as has appeared so often in these discussions (usually within the column hand itself) all any hopeful declarer can do is follow what he considers the preponderance of the evidence.

With that as a guide, one caveat I can guarantee and that is the more experience gleaned, especially against thoughtful opponents in determiing what to believe and what to be suspicious. Here the signal at trick one, although likely not to really be important is still unlikely to be a false one since the 3rd seat defender will not be able to realize the importance of a mislead at that point resulting in success for his side at the death.

Once in a great while a wily declarer will fall victim to a super clever defender, but until it happens, just assume it isn’t, but even if it does, charge it off to a learning experience for your promising bridge future, learning just how to grow to the top ranks and what it takes, including not to be stereotyped with the difference between one’s NV three or four heart opening.

Iain ClimieFebruary 13th, 2019 at 4:21 pm

Hi Bobby,

If North had a heart more and a diamond less, with West having only 7H, East could get caught in an amusing way if declarer ruffed a heart in hand, cashed his top trumps, and ruffed another heart. East lets a club go (say) so now South finishes clubs so that East has to ruff in and be endplayed or give up his diamond trick by unguarding the Queen. I suppose this could fail if East had 5 clubs so South will need to cash a couple of early clubs after the bad trump break comes to light.



Bobby WolffFebruary 13th, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Hi Iain,

While imagining games of what if and then why different, sometimes appear to be unrealistic in truth, at least for many, are very productive.

The reason being is to first show the absolute necessity of forcing oneself to count every hand, both as declarer and, of course defensively for two reasons:

1. To then quickly (as much as possible) know one’s order of discards (if necessary) not only to discard the right cards, but also the order of discards in order to make the declarer have fewer clues (such as discarding down to a singleton king with the ace and queen among declarer’s assets) earlier so he will not pick up your stress (or reluctance) when forced to do so.

2. Since it is entirely legal (and ethical) to take advantage of the opponents hesitations, a player can become a winning one, when engaging in psychological games hoping to lead declarer astray as to where both key cards and sometimes key distributions lurk. (of course, pretending mightily to be under pressure when not holding anything to cause it, is not ethical thus not legal and very much reprehensible making a “so-called” poker face the goal to seek.

3. The key will always be for you to know how adept you are (by counting) while most already there opponents will not give you the credit you deserve and fall victim to miss guesses because of it. Leave it up to them to know that you have arrived and will then be a very tough opponent forevermore.

Because of that, even if for nothing else, the imagination gleaned from your thinking of different distributions, not there on this hand, but perhaps something very similar next time will allow the newer player to advance quickly through this key bridge mind development process before worthy opponents will be ready for it. Perhaps afterward a coy smile will send the right message.

So thank you Iain for your discussions concerning different strokes for different hands (and folks).