Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, Time stays, we go.

Austin Dobson

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


Today’s deal comes from the semifinals of the Australian National Open Teams; it is the flip-side of yesterday’s deal. We had pointed out that declarer’s false-cards will occasionally rebound. But the advantage of these maneuvers is that fooling your partner does no harm when he is dummy.

Frequently, you want to prevent an opponent reading from his partner’s lead as a singleton and giving him a ruff. But occasionally, it is in your interest not to falsecard, as here.

Jacek Pszczola, known to the world at large as Pepsi, over-called four spades over an off-center three-diamond pre-empt. When West led the diamond nine, Pepsi played low from dummy; East put up his ace and saw the two from South.

East could read that his partner had led a singleton, so he returned a diamond, and West ruffed. Back came a heart, which Pepsi took with his ace. He cashed his two top trumps, then crossed to the club ace to dispose of his heart loser on a diamond winner. West could ruff in with his master trump, but declarer had the rest.

At the second table, West also led his singleton diamond against four spades, but this time declarer dropped his jack under the ace. Jacek Kalita, as East, was in the hot seat, and he could not read whether the lead was a singleton or doubleton. But he could see that his side needed to set up heart winners. So, he shifted accurately to a low heart at trick two, and now the contract could no longer be made.

It must be right to raise hearts at once; otherwise, we may have to do so at an inconvenient level, or not do it at all. That said, a simple raise to two hearts covers a wide variety of hands. It would be convenient to have both a constructive and a minimum raise, as we would if the opponents had stayed silent. Some use a two-club call for a constructive three-card raise; that would be ideal here.


♠ Q J 8 3
 Q 5 3
♣ Q J 7 5 3
South West North East
    1 Dbl.

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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


Bob LiptonJune 13th, 2019 at 12:49 pm

I don’t care. For East’s undisciplined 3Diamond overcall. Without it, West should look at his hand, decide that while a diamond is the automatic lead, it’s not appropriate here; he’s getting two Spade tricks anyway, so why not try to establish a side-suit trick? Clubs is attractive, but his length argues against it. Better to play partner for something useful in hearts.

But b

jim2June 13th, 2019 at 2:09 pm

I suspect your case may be even stronger than you represented.

Without the 3D call, the N-S bidding would probably help in choosing the lead.

bobbywolffJune 13th, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Hi Bob,

No doubt, your post has much to recommend it with your principle, thanks to you, now firmly understood by all who read it.

And, as to the choice between the rounded suits, hearts (with only three has more room, but with clubs, while holding both the queen jack has more texture and thus to me is a tossup). However, partner did bid diamonds and a bunch of them, causing me to re quote Damon Runyon, a long ago respected American sports writer and pundit, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet”. No law forbids partner to collect the first two diamond tricks, both in his hand.

Imagine declarer holding: s. AK10xxxx, h. Ax, d. xx, c. Ax with dummy holding: .s. s. x, h. KJxx. d. Qxx. c. K10xxx leaving East with: s. x, h. 10xxx, d. AKJxxxx, c. x.

If so, two unfortunate events occur: First, declarer scores up his possible unsuccesful game, but second (and most importantly) partner feels blameless for his opening bid and asks what he has to do to get the required defense to defeat it.

Finally, if a poll among relatively able and experienced bridge players were to be taken, about the choices of opening lead (by non-cheaters), the results of which may show: 1. most common reason for breakups of partnership, 2. stronger than usual and needed words used, 3. more divorces, and worst, 4. mere loss of respect for one another.

However Bob, none of the above suggests you are wrong in your analysis, but it also doesn’t imply that you are right.

bobbywolffJune 13th, 2019 at 3:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt aesthetically you called it right, but then without diamonds being bid by partner, leading a short suit with almost assuredly two natural trump tricks in tow would likely lead to a then controversial battle between the two other unbid suits unless crucial information during the bidding, indicated one from the other.

Also, kudos on your reply. Perhaps your TOCM TM has enabled you to become a master of diplomacy.

Bob LiptonJune 13th, 2019 at 6:36 pm

I’m not saying that as the bidding went, West shouldn’t lead a diamond. The essence of post-mortems is that you should always make the call or play that will win you the argument after the hand. By leading his stiff diamond, west wins the post-mortem. I’m saying east should keep his mouth shut, because west might open 1 heart or 1NT or even 1 diamond.


bobbywolffJune 13th, 2019 at 7:37 pm

Hi Bob,

Now, at least to me, you have presented a horse of another color, and you may be happy to know that I agree with you. To make it clear, I would not ever be inclined to lead a side singleton when sitting with QJxx over declarer’s vehemently bid suit.

Whether any player should preempt with the hand he held is a question for others to decide.

Reason being that while NV and playing against well above average players, my preference is to gamble taking bidding room away from them by opening preempts (including off-beat weak two bids) when possible.

Of course, at least to me, is only a tactic which, while holding IMO close to a 50% following, is either a method of attack wherein the user believes in affirmative action rather than passive. IOW, no real proof either way, (possibly illusional), as to its effectiveness, only a preference.

A good reason why our site is a pleasant form of exchanging views with mostly others who share the same love of our game.

Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2019 at 9:06 am

HI Bobby,

My biggest gripe about the 3D bid is that it is 2nd in hand where it is now 50-50 whether you fix partner or opponents. No problem 3rd in hand and I could tolerate it as opener (although I wouldn’t open 3D myself) but here it is something of a loose cannon bid.



bobbywolffJune 14th, 2019 at 11:34 am

Hi Iain,

Your specific comment, directed to slightly off beat weak preempts being successfully executed while being second to speak after the dealer has passed, has become a caveat by teachers and ratified by high-level players for, of course, the very reason you express (the odds go up that your partner will be disadvantaged, not necessarily only one’s LHO since, by being in second seat, not as dealer, there is only one opponent left to put pressure on, instead of two, while partner, who has yet to declare less than an opening bid leaves it only a one to one disadvantage instead of a more favorable possibility of two opponents to suffer and only one partner.

Again, numeracy becomes involved in making these close decisions, but the logic of taking advantage of the law of averages is an often positive factor in long term success, except in only one instance. When its not!

Finally it is indeed special for you to at least appear to become a bridge scientist instead of only being an at the table genius in making the right bid at the right time.

While to other scientists, it indeed will strike a positive chord, but it cannot help to “feel” (and that is definitely the proper word) a little strange to some of us who thought we knew you better.