Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 4th, 2012

Praise is the best diet for us, after all.

Sydney Smith

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


One often hears the truism about needing to play the cards up if you overbid them. A truer word was never spoken about today's deal, where South's jump to four spades would not appear in any textbook — a three-spade bid looks ideal for these values.

The lead of the heart 10 went to dummy’s ace. Declarer saw the need for reducing his trumps in hand as quickly as possible if the diamonds did not produce a miracle, so he took the risk of ruffing a heart with the spade six, the highest trump he thought he could afford.

When that passed off peacefully, declarer cashed the club ace. Next came a diamond to the king, a club ruff, then a diamond to the ace and another club ruff. The sight of the diamond queen on the second round of the suit, coupled with East’s discard on the third club, gave South a warning. Eventually he decided that the fall of the spots had strongly suggested East was likely to have begun with a 4-5-2-2 shape. He therefore ruffed the next diamond with the spade ace, and the expected news was confirmed when East pitched a heart.

Another club ruff with a low trump let South take a diamond ruff with the spade 10. Whether East overruffed or discarded, declarer would be able to score his spade eight at the next trick and come to 12 tricks — a triumph for overbidding!

Some people would tell you that they know whether it is right to open one no-trump or one heart with this hand. I don't feel strongly either way, but my general approach is to open a five-card major when I have a 5-4 pattern in the appropriate range. This hand is something of an exception — the strength of the two doubletons and the absence of intermediates both argue for the no-trump call.


♠ A 10
 A 9 5 3 2
 A K
♣ 8 6 4 2
South West North East

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David WarheitMay 18th, 2012 at 11:19 am

When the hand was over, with a disgusted look at his partner, east said: “if you’d only led a trump, the contract would have been defeated!” West, shocked, replied: “But I didn’t have a trump!” East said: “That doesn’t detract from what I just said!”

On the bidding problem, I would bid 1H BECAUSE of the lack of tenaces, figuring that if this hand belongs in NT, it would be better if partner were declarer.

jim2May 18th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I think a diamond lead would suffice.

bobbywolffMay 18th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Hi David,

Your reported repartee at the table after the scoundrel South, had waltzed off with his very tricky spade slam was very appropriate, complete with the opening lead admonition. “If you don’t have one, find one!”

I also agree with your choice of 1 heart as an opening bid with the BWTA, but is it ever really better, even with a different lead, to have partner the declarer instead of self? (tongue very much in cheek).

bobbywolffMay 18th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi Jim2,

Who asked you?

As Tobias Stone recently told me (he sadly died in Las Vegas about a month ago at the age of 92) about a week before he checked out and while Judy and I were visiting him for the last time, after I attempted to tell him a joke. “I’ll tell the jokes around here”.

Yes, you are so right about how a diamond lead removes a vital entry prematurely for the trump coup executed to score up 12 tricks in spades.

It merely proves Englishman bridge player and author John Brown’s (back in the 1940’s he wrote one of the best books ever written on overall defense) great quote (or almost) from that book “that if any just average bridge player would always get off to the right opening lead every time, he would win every bridge world championsip”. Of all the people (real or fictional) that I know, only Clark Kent comes to mind because of his X-Ray eyes, would qualify for such an endeavor.

Thanks for the truth.

jim2May 18th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Victor Mollo!

“I am sooo sorry!” The Rueful Rabbit’s voice quavered in horror. He had quickly and confidently led his partner’s suit, knowing that even if it were wrong, he would largely escape criticism. The card on the table, however, was not the required heart but a most improper diamond. “I don’t know how that happened!”

Actually, he did know. Once again, he had fouled his suit sorting with a card of the same colour.

“We all understand,” snorted the Hideous Hog, as always the declarer. “Quite understandable, really. Could happen to anyone. Go ahead and take it back. I implore you! We’re all friends here.”

“No, no,” RR replied, bravely. “I made the mistake and must pay the consequences.”

The event made such an impact of him, that he was not able to speak of it until later that night in the bar, and his hand still shook as he clutched his second cherry brandy.

“I’m only glad,” he confessed to me, “that it turned out not to give away the contract.”