Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Man, who wert once a despot and a slave;
A dupe and a deceiver; a decay;
A traveler from the cradle to the grave
Through the dim light of this immortal day.

Percy Shelley

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


The art of falsecarding is a complex one; it is generally a good rule as declarer to conceal small cards in the suit led to make the defenders’ task of reading leads and signals more difficult. But you should not do this entirely at random; sometimes you make the defenders’ task easier, not harder.

For example, in this deal from Masterplay (also known as the Expert Game) by Terence Reese, a false-card by the declarer was the clue to the defense.

West kicked off with the heart three against three no-trump. While some prefer to lead second highest rather than a low card from four small, leading fourth best was certainly reasonable. Declarer played the heart two from dummy, East played the heart king, and South dropped the heart nine.

South’s idea was to make the opponents think that he was short in hearts and to encourage a heart continuation. In fact, the play conveyed a completely different impression. East could tell from the lead of the heart three, with the heart two in dummy, that West had only four hearts. Therefore, South’s play of the heart nine had to be a false-card, and the inference to be drawn was that declarer was well upholstered in that suit.

So, East switched to a low diamond, playing his partner for the diamond jack. This play did the trick. When West came in with the spade king, he was able to return a diamond to his partner’s A-10 for the defense’s fifth winner.

Nothing in bridge is ever simple or unanimous, but I believe the majority of people would expect that if South had reversing values together with four diamonds and five clubs, he would jump to three diamonds now. Therefore, a call of two diamonds suggests this minor-suit pattern without real extras, making it an ideal bid here.


♠ J 10
 J 2
 K Q 8 7
♣ A Q 9 8 4
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieJune 12th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

Suppose West had led H6 from 86xx(x) and South plays the 9 or 10; things may be trickier. East now has to decide whether South has Q109 alone (when he might have tried for a spade fit via 2H or a minor suit game) or Q109x. I feel the 3N is a little bit of a plunge (as Reese wrote when 2N would have been good 10 to bad 12 pts) but is South really committing to 3N with only 3/4 of a heart stop here? North could easily be (say) 2-1-5-5 with a singleton small heart when the defence will often be able to run the first 5 heart tricks. Certainly the lead described and attempt to be clever rebounded on declarer.

In terms of the bidding though, 3N is the game most often allowed to slip through!



bobbywolffJune 12th, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Hi Iain,

While I agree with most everything you say mostly about the inferences you suggest about jumping to 3NT with only Q109 in the unbid suit (although when declarer gives up on an 8 card major suit fit or, of course the Q109 is one of the subject suits) he well may not do so unless he was convinced that the mesh between the two offensive hands was both not strong nor distributional enough to have fewer than 3 losers in a minor suit game he was left with chancing finding a key card in dummy such as the A, K or J of hearts, with, of course the default choice of being fortunate enough for that mediocre holding to serve as a single stopper (of course a 4-4 defensive heart holding might still serve the purpose or, of course the jack of hearts being favorably placed).

Of course, all of the above doesn’t really concern the subject today, but rather the detective work by East knowing (by partner’s lead of the three of hearts and the deuce being in dummy) that declarer is up to some kind of subterfuge by his following with the nine at trick one.

Then, being of logical mind and realizing that at least at this time and place declarer is not someone I can call my friend, it looks then that he is trying to bait the partner of the opening leader into continuing the led suit.

And I certainly agree with you about allowing 3NT to slip through while on defense, and today’s hand might add, if 3rd chair is not careful, to those statistics.

Such, as you immediately and always realize, that what the opponents want me to do is not in your best interests, so perhaps instead, partner will have the grace to have at least two diamonds including the jack, which hell or high water could not keep that opposing declarer from denying him.

However, and to be sure, your analysis of why declarer may not have what he is purporting himself to have is also valid. It is only that this specific hand lends itself to certainty, not just speculation, of that fact. And before it is asked, it becomes unreasonable to assume that declarer did not drop his nine from 109xx, unless he is thought to be related to a lemming.

Perhaps on the next hand without the telltale 4th highest lead, it will be mandatory to then consider the cards as we see them, as you so clearly and succinctly suggest, to sometimes detect what will be best for your partnership, not theirs.