Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 15, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: E/W

K 9
J 3
A 7 6 5
A Q 10 9 8
West East
8 7 4 2 J 6 5 3
A 8 7 5 4 9 6 2
9 2 Q J 8
7 3 K J 4
A Q 10
K Q 10
K 10 4 3
6 5 2


South West North East
    1 Pass
3 NT All Pass    

Opening Lead:5

“Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,

And like enough thou know’st thy estimate.”

— William Shakespeare

Today’s deal, which comes from a teams match, shows an approach one might follow if making the contract is paramount and overtricks are irrelevant.


In both rooms of the match South declared three no-trump on a low heart lead to East’s nine and South’s queen. South now played a club to the 10 and jack. Back came the heart four, and the first point of the deal is that for the defense to have a chance, West must hold up his ace, conserving his vital third-round entry.


Both defenders did so, and at one table where West had meanly concealed his lowest heart, South expected the hearts to be splitting evenly and simply repeated the club finesse. The defenders now won three heart tricks and two clubs before declarer could establish nine tricks.


In the other room the play to the first three tricks was the same, with West playing the heart seven at his second turn. But South could infer from East’s return of the heart six (high from a remaining doubleton) that West had a five-card suit. Declarer could see the risk of the second club finesse, so he countered by playing a third round of hearts himself. If West cashed his hearts (as he did at the table), East could be squeezed in the minors. If he did not, a club winner could be safely established for declarer’s ninth trick since declarer had cut the defenders’ communications in hearts.

ANSWER: This hand is borderline for a free call of two hearts, but I think you require just a little more to enter the auction at the two-level. With the same hand but a queen in any of the four suits, you would probably risk a bid, but as it is, you should pass and plan to balance with a call of two hearts if the opponents allow you an entry into the auction.


South Holds:

8 7 4 2
A 8 7 5 4
9 2
7 3


South West North East
  1 Dbl. 1


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Bobby WolffJanuary 29th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Could it be that South, the declarer, after winning the opening lead with the Queen of hearts, test the diamonds first by playing two rounds and when they broke, merely give up a diamond in order to guarantee nine tricks (3 spades, 2 hearts, 3 diamonds and the ace of clubs)? Obviously I should have mentioned this line in the text, but the lure of the fancy play of forcing EW to cash their tricks and therefore squeezing East was too much to overlook and as always, space is critical in writing bridge columns.

For IMP and Rubber Bridge purposes the line involving playing diamonds first is obviously the superior line to guarantee the contract, but whether it is the percentage line at Matchpoints is up to the mathematicians to decide.