Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: None

K Q 6 5
K Q 10 5
J 7 4
7 6
West East
8 7 4 2 9
A 8 4 9 6 3 2
Q 5 3 2 A 10 9 6
Q 5 J 8 4 2
A J 10 3
J 7
K 8
A K 10 9 3
West North East South
Pass 1 Pass 1
Pass 4 Pass 4NT
Pass 5 Dble 5
All Pass

Opening Lead: 2

“The day is for mistake and error, sequence of time for success and carrying out. The one who anticipates is master of the day.”

— Johann von Goethe

Sally Brock has just won England’s first world title at bridge since Great Britain split into its constituent parts for major international events. Sally, an excellent journalist, wrote up this deal from one of the domestic tournaments. It contains a point that could benefit all of us.

At her table, Sally had stopped safely in four spades and thought no more of the board. But in the featured room, North-South got one level higher, and East-West did well to make them pay.

The defenders played two rounds of diamonds, South winning his king. Declarer now played a spade to dummy’s king and a spade back to his ace, East discarding the heart six, showing an even number of cards in the suit. So now, when declarer played a heart, West was able to duck the first heart and win the continuation. Now the diamond queen forced declarer to ruff. Locked in his hand, declarer tried two top clubs and a club ruff, but this allowed West to discard a heart and the contract could no longer be made.

The cause of South’s downfall was that he ruined his communications by playing two rounds of trump too early. He should simply have played a heart at trick two. If West wins the second heart as before and continues diamonds, declarer ruffs a diamond high, draws trumps, and claims the remainder.

Message: Drawing trumps too soon can be as fatal to contracts as drawing trumps too late.

ANSWER: It would not be absurd to pass, since your side has at most 25 HCP. But if partner has a maximum, he might not be too pleased, so perhaps you should invite to game. Best is simply to raise to two no-trump. (You know your side does not have a spade fit or your partner would probably have bid one spade at his previous turn.)


South Holds:

K Q 6 5
K Q 10 5
J 7 4
7 6
West North East South
1 Pass 1
Pass 1NT Pass ?

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, feel free to leave comments at this blog. This column is reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc. Copyright 2009.


JohnMarch 27th, 2009 at 1:15 am

Nice to have this available to us in Las Vegas. Looking forward to many pleasant reads.

David desJardinsMarch 27th, 2009 at 7:23 am

Do we get to discuss the bridge here? I don’t think playing two rounds of trumps actually is the problem. It’s how South played trumps. If he starts with AJ of spades, then it’s not a problem to force out the heart ace, ruff the third diamond, draw trumps, and cash 11 tricks.

David desJardinsMarch 27th, 2009 at 7:43 am

If West continues trumps after winning the heart ace, he’ll defeat the contract if South has played two rounds of trump, but also probably if no trumps have been played.

The proposal to play hearts before drawing any trump seems to invite the question of what you do if East wins the second heart and plays a third heart. Are you going to accept defeat when RHO has Axxxx of hearts?

Bobby WolffMarch 27th, 2009 at 11:21 pm

To simplify matter I would lead a low heart to the dummy and if the opponents ducked I would ruff a diamond low. then the jack of hearts and everything else would fall in place. If West wins the 2d heart and leads a 3d one I’d ruff it high and then draw trump and claim. No sense beating this horse anymore. Let’s wait till something worth while worrying about appears. Key is do not lead any trump. This might stand up to total scrutiny, but it is good enough in an overwhelming number of hands.

David desJardinsMarch 31st, 2009 at 5:37 am

If you ruff the 3rd heart high, then you can’t draw trump when they are 4-1. I am not sure that playing hearts immediately will make the contract more often than starting with AJ of spades, although your judgment on that is certainly better than mine.