Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 31st, 2019

There are dark shadows on the Earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

Charles Dickens

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


When this deal came up, two declarers were confronted with the same defense but drew two different conclusions from their opponents’ play.

At both tables, after the lead of the heart queen to the king and ace, each defender accurately shifted to the club king to try to set up tricks in that suit. At the first table, declarer won his ace and played a low spade to the king. When East discarded a diamond, declarer unblocked diamonds, then played a heart. However, West could now maneuver to score two trump tricks and a club.

At the second table, declarer read the lead as a singleton and asked himself why East had not played for heart ruffs. South concluded that West probably had a trump trick, and that East believed he needed more than just one heart ruff to beat the contract.

So, at trick three, South led the trump jack from hand and let it run when West played low. Then declarer took the trump ace and king before playing a low heart to the jack. Had West overtrumped to lead two rounds of clubs, declarer would have ruffed out the hearts, using the diamond king as a re-entry to dummy. So West discarded a club instead. Now declarer returned to dummy with the diamond king to run the heart nine, covered with the 10 and ruffed in hand.

West did his best by over-ruffing with the queen to cash a club, but declarer had the rest. He made four trumps, two hearts, two diamonds, the club ace and a club ruff.

It feels right to give delayed support to two hearts now. This is not only because you don’t want to give up entirely on a chance at game, but also because if your partner has a singleton spade, you might be able to use a trump in dummy to cope with a fourth-round minor-suit loser.


♠ J 10 6 4 3
 J 4
 A 5 4
♣ A 10 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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


David WarheitJune 14th, 2019 at 9:14 am

Given W’s S holding, I can see no reason for him to lead HQ at trick 1. I would lead a C, which I believe would lead to the contract failing (as would a D lead), but I leave it to someone with more hours to spend on this hand to work out the play.

bobbywolffJune 14th, 2019 at 11:10 am

Hi David,

My off hand guess, without spending the time you allude to, is that a club lead would practically lead to defeat, but a diamond lead would allow declarer to win in dummy, lead the ace of spades and then return to hand in clubs to first lead the jack of spades with the intent to counter West either covering or not but to then throw the losing club away on the diamond ace and then go after hearts from the South hand.

I, like you, will gladly accept being corrected on my analysis, and heartily agree that I prefer a club lead to a singleton in the opening bidder’s primary suit or the shorter diamond suit, while holding Q9xx in trumps.

If, in fact, you and I have directed our readers to what we think a better choice of opening lead, whether or not it would be enough on this hand, becomes a secondary issue to the vagaries involved of whether it worked or not on this specific hand.

And by your overall choice of words, I think you agree.

Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2019 at 3:45 pm

Hi Bobby, David,

With the sight of all 4 hands a small trump lead would surely cause declarer to play the Ace at T1 and say something very rude under his / her breath. It isn’t a serious suggestion, of course, but goes back to that comment about opening leads you recounted the other day.

I’m not sure I’d move 1N on the BWTA hand, though. Partner should have a fair chance of scrambling 7 tricks at least although the defence will probably work out a spade switch is needed pdq.



bobbywolffJune 14th, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I agree and can only imagine an opening leader who led a small spade (trump) on opening lead not only hypnotizing the declarer, but also convincing others of prematurely having the hand records.

I also would be inclined to pass 1NT on today’s BWTA instead of returning to partner’s overcalled suit, while holding Jx, but was, shall we say, outvoted. Why cannot partner have something like: s. Qx, h. Q10xxx, d. KQx, c. KJx, although since his partner’s bid is usually played NF he might (should) pass one spade.

Furthermore, I may even raise to 2NT, once the overcaller rebids 1NT, assuming I was playing with an otherwise conservative partner and of course had the understanding that my 1S was NF. Often when all (or almost) of the defensive strength is in one hand, it gives an advantage to the declarer since, unless he can quickly establish his best suit, he will have trouble not giving a trick away since while winning a trick he may have to lead away from suits he would prefer not to have to.