Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 1st, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: North


K 8 3

Q 8 5

K 4 3

A J 4 2


A J 7 6 5 2


7 5

Q 10 8 6


10 9 4


10 8 6 2

7 5 3



10 9 7 6 4 3

A Q J 9

K 9


South West North East
1 Pass
1 1 Dbl.* 2
4 All pass

* Three-card heart support

Opening Lead: Diamond seven

“In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”

— Neville Chamberlain

Until now, it has not been easy to use the Internet to discuss bridge at a high level. You can follow my column and other bridge blogs at But two new sites, bridgetopicscom for news and for problems and discussions, now give everyone more opportunities to learn about the game. Here is a problem deal posed by Steve Weinstein on bridgewinners; focus solely on the East and North hands.

Against four hearts, partner leads the diamond seven. You play the 10, and declarer wins with the queen. Declarer then leads a heart to dummy’s eight, which you win. What next?

If you played a spade or a diamond back, you missed the point of the deal! There are two basic hand-types your partner could hold where your play is critical. He could have the spade ace and a doubleton diamond (as in today’s deal, when the spade loser could go away on dummy’s clubs unless he cashes the ace) or he could have a singleton diamond and no spade ace — when the diamond ruff might get away unless you play a diamond.

Both of these hands might be consistent with the bidding. But you can cover both bases, as long as you win the heart with the king at trick two and play back a diamond.Although your partner cannot ruff this trick, declarer will surely just play a second heart rather than fool around with the club finesse, so you get your second bite at the apple.


South holds:

10 7 2
K 9 3
Q 10 9 5 4
7 4


South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. All pass
ANSWER: This auction strongly suggests that your partner has the clubs under control, but he is not demanding a club lead. Do you have a sensible alternative? Here, your chunky diamonds are a good practical choice. I would lead a low one, not the 10.


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jim2August 15th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Two separate comments:

1) Given that partner’s lead denied a diamond honor, I cannot seem to fashion a West hand that is worth a simple overcall (and not a preemptive one) without the spade ace. The following seems the closest possibility, given what cards East holds and can see in the North hand:





However, this makes South 5-5 in the reds and jumped to game with a topless 5 card heart suit facing 3-card support instead of rebidding 3D with AQJ95.

At the table, I think I’d fire back a spade anyway, fearing that South would have second thoughts and execute the club finesse.

2) On the lead quiz, why do you say that partner has not requested a club lead? How would partner requst one? I read the auction to be West holding something like AJxxxx in clubs with partner holding KQ10x (or even KJxxxx and AQ109). This would make it important to get off to an opening club lead so that the lethal second lead could come when in with the heart king.

Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your to the point questions and for your always detailed, comprehensive, mostly accurate analysis.

First a word about Stevie Weinstein, a now dual top level expert in both poker and bridge, who submitted this probable apocryphal hand to illustrate the advantage in bridge, (perhaps also thinking about poker bluffs) to throw up a smoke screen for declarer to buy and hence not succeed in his competitive task of winning.

Yes, as you suggest, partner is very likely to have the spade ace, but how about: s. AQJxxxx, h. xx, d. x, c. xxx (didn’t preempt because of his vulnerability leaving declarer with void, 109xxx, AQJxx, KQx. Once partner showed three card heart support (via a support double), declarer leaped to what he thought was the best contract since they had 8 of them and no other suit or NT appeared as likely.

However, because of Stevie’s suggested deception, declarer would not dare attempt dangerous club finesses (with the hand he actually held) since declarer felt protected that he was making the hand anyway.

My wife Judy often reminds me of her late and great former husband Norman Kay’s reply to one of his lesser talented bridge buddies from Philadelphia

when he was told that “I made only 2 mistakes today in the whole session that I just played”. “You should mean to say that you made only 2 mistakes today that you know of” implying in this case if East won the first trump trick with the jack he wouldn’t even know that it was a mistake. Sarcastic, yes, but realistic, you betcha!

Yes, the Lead with the Aces hand is controversial since it may be necessary to start a club immediately in order to get the maximum defensive tricks possible. The only contradictory point is that, although it is crystal clear that partner has the clubs well guarded with defensive tricks available, sometimes it is not necessary to start the clubs immediately since, although that suit is totally bottled up, it still is better to try an attack where the defense is longer (and possibly strong enough) to develop defensive tricks to go along with the club bottleneck. However, I would never argue the point which suit to start first.

Keep on firing away since, at the very least, your points continue to have significant substance and always worthy of discussion.

jim2August 15th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Fair enough on the example hand, though I am not sure I can ever recall seeing a simple overcall with a semi-solid 7-card spade suit with a singleton facing a passed partner.

As for your bride’s comment, I suspect that the vast majority – if not all! – of Norman Kay’s Philly bridge buddies would have met that description.

John Howard GibsonAugust 16th, 2011 at 9:16 am

HBJ : Hi there again. Am I missing the point or what. As declarer I can see 4 possible losers, 3 hearts and the spade Ace. My natural instinct is to risk playing on clubs straightaway in an attempt ( successful here ) to pitch the stiff queen of spades after the successful club finesse.

I accept that declarer is playing for hearts to be 2-2 or if they are 3-1, West to hold 3 including the the jack. But let’s consider West’s overcall ? He will have values …..but surely not spades AND the AKJ of hearts…. because otherwise there might well have been a double. East’s raise , given declarer and dummy hold K and Q of spades betwwen them, must be based on outside values ? Hearts perhaps ? If this is the case the odds now favour West to hold the queen of clubs along with a 5 card spade suit to the AJ.

If the club finesse line of play works, one can play on hearts without a care in the world. I need to be convinced that playing on hearts first is the best line of play ?

jim2August 16th, 2011 at 12:34 pm


I had the same gut reaction, but I think the math does support starting with hearts.

Basically, the club finesse is a 50% shot. It’s actually a tad less, since a defender might be short and be able to ruff without sacrificing a trump trick.

Leading towards the heart wins if hearts are 2-2 (as you said) or 3 – 1 or 1 – 3 as long as the jack is onside.

So, the heart line wins 40% (2 – 2) + 25% (half of the ~50% 3 – 1) for 65%.

I don’t know how to quantify the high card layouts. For example, might West have jack-high 6-carder with a heart holding including AK?

Bobby WolffAugust 16th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Hi to all those interested,

I’m not going to attempt to improve on Jim2’s answer to HBJ’s heartfelt opinion for one very good reason. I, nor do I think anyone else, could.

With only the intent of describing in general terms rather than specific, usually random queens (and of course, more so jacks) can’t be

counted on to be in the bidder’s hand as extra values, except in direct opening NT bids, since the holding of those secondary high cards is rarely a factor (and quite rightly so) in determining overcalls and general competitive bidding.

Another general topic to keep in mind is that the column is designed especially to entertain our bridge loving readers with a secondary purpose of also teaching. Stevie Weinstein’s spectacular falsecard of winning the king of trumps, concealing the jack is a prizewinner which would tend to surprise even the greatest players ever, although to be honest, it has been observed by me many times (perhaps 4 or 5) and by different players over the course of a long bridge career.

Bridge writing and editing, although, at times being hard work, is very rewarding, but the discussion created and joined by advanced players of several different levels over shadows all the above, if only, because of the bridge enthusiasm it should generate as a showcase of what our off the charts game is all about.

In conclusion, while the endurance factor is probably the only physical quality required by top-level bridge players, the mental face to face competitiveness, overall knowledge required, and the never ceasing original traps to be overcome, qualifies our wonderful game for whatever the highest form of competition to ever exist may be.