Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Love of fame is the last thing even learned men can bear to be parted from.


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


Journalist Kees Tammens has just retired from his duties with the Dutch team as coach, reporter and cheerleader. This was one of his last contributions to the bulletin. As West, when your lead of the spade king against four hearts holds the trick, you must decide what to do next.

A spade continuation may seem harmless, but it would give declarer the chance for a brilliant maneuver. He could play the spade ace and ruff a spade, lead a heart to the ace, then draw trumps in three rounds, cash both top clubs and endplay East with the third club.

The endplay holds the diamond losers to one and makes the contract. We all wanted to know which declarer if any had played like that. Aarnout Helmich, coach of the Dutch girls’ team (and himself a junior world champion in 2011 and 2012), was proud to announce that after the defense of repeated spade leads, Juliet Berwald of the Netherlands had executed this very neat endplay in her debut in international bridge.

But now you ask: Was there a defense, and if so, did anyone find it? Yes — a diamond shift by West at trick two beats the contract. And, indeed, Brad Johnston from New Zealand found the killing diamond shift when Dutch declarer Thibo Sprinkhuizen ducked the opening top spade lead. While this only led to a flat board (since game was far easier to defeat in the other room after a spade lead, where North was declarer), kudos to Brad here.

With no aces, but a full opener, do you want to drive your hand to game or merely invite it? I’m firmly in the pessimistic category in this case. I would raise to three clubs and, if partner were unable to make another call, be astonished if game turned out to be makeable.


♠ J 4
 K J 9 8
 K J 7
♣ K 8 5 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1 ♠
Dbl. Pass 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


Patrick CheuSeptember 8th, 2019 at 8:00 am

Hi Bobby,We now know a diamond switch is right on this hand,but is it not a just a guess,as if East held AQxxx of clubs and South were Axx Axxx AQxx xx..a club might be right?

bobbywolffSeptember 8th, 2019 at 1:18 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, and because of the specific layout you suggest, South would have been right to win the first spade, draw trump and only then concede one spade and two clubs. However, that doesn’t mean that declarer would have done that, nor that by ducking the first spade, with different defensive card combinations, that it would not be right to do so.

No doubt bridge play, both declarer and defense, have many challenges, mainly because of the vast number of potential card combinations possible. To that, it is often suggested, let the winner explain, a mere shortcut to allow a successful declarer to be in the limelight.

Such is the nature of today’s cat and mouse type decision, centering on what West does at trick two if the spade is ducked by declarer. Anyone, especially East, who merely (often for his own ego) might ask, why didn’t you switch to a club (or a diamond? at trick 2) likely does so before he has considered the dilemma West had and thus (I think) might be “better to be silent and thought a fool, then speak out and remove all doubt”.

However I, and hope, all conscientious readers, will appreciate your alternate EW hand holding which makes a club shift and continuation the “killing defense” without blaming declarer for what might be a benign duck at trick one. (As Jim2 might add, “I’d attempt to show a 52 card hand which necessitates a first play duck by the declarer, but my head might start hurting before I could succeed”.

Thanks for your always provocative questions and comments which never cease to liven intelligent bridge discussions.