Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 25th, 2016

Decisiveness is the one word that makes a good manager.

Lee Iacocca

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


Plan the defense in today’s deal as East, when your partner leads the heart two against four spades. Your first task should be to consider the missing high cards. Since you have eight points, and dummy has 14, your partner has at most five or six points.

Could shifting to diamonds ever be necessary to beat the contract? I cannot see how. The next question is whether a low heart at trick two might ever let the contract through. There are two reasons why that seems unlikely. The first is that if partner had three or four small hearts he would might well have led a higher spot card. The second is that your partner can scarcely have the guarded spade queen and a sure diamond trick such as the ace, or declarer really does not have an opening bid at all.

East may well deduce from the auction and dummy’s strength that the best hope for the defense is to try for three hearts and a trump trick. If he believes that, he may well decide that being able to lead the 13th heart may increase his side’s chances of scoring a trump trick. Once he comes to that conclusion, he should lead a low heart at trick two. When the heart three goes to the queen, East can take the next heart with the ace and play the 13th heart. Now whether South ruffs high — when West discards — or low (when he ruffs in with the eight) West’s spade king cannot be shut out.

Bidding again is not without risk, but one hates to surrender partscores without a fight, whether at rubber, teams, or pairs. I think you are supposed to bid again, and the issue is whether to bid two diamonds, focusing on the suit quality, or double, catering to partner having real heart length. I can see both sides of this, but the suit quality (and West’s negative double) persuade me to bid diamonds.


♠ Q J 10 6 3
 10 9 7
 A K Q 9
♣ 7
South West North East
      1 ♣
1 ♠ Dbl. Pass 2 ♣

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Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2016 at 11:43 am

Hi Bobby,

Provided that East can trust partner to have the HQ, I take your point about the first 3 tricks, but there is still a decision at Trick 4. Suppose East plays the 13th heart and South (not impossibly) holds KQJ10x 109x AQxx x. He ruffs high dumping a diamond from dummy, plays DA, ruffs a diamond, draws trumps ending in hand and sheds the other 2 diamonds on winning clubs. You could argue that this is exact cards in S & D, but declarer holding all 3 top diamonds is the same.

Suppose East plays a diamond at T4 instead and South has the hand above. The D finesse is 50-50, whereas taking the DA and setting up the 5th club for a discard needs S3-2 and C4-3 (C to Ace, ruff club, draw trumps ending on table) although hearts being 4-3 suggests the opposing hands may be relatively balanced.

Obviously Bob Hamman’s dictum on holding exact cards applies here – but it applies whether I assume partner has a hand like today’s column (nothing in diamonds) or the one I quoted above (nothing i n spades), and both seem pretty plausible. So, going back to T4, would you still play the 13th heart at the table? There again, aren’t such decisions (and the consequent hard luck story to tell anyone who’ll listen) part of the masochistic but enjoyable side of the game?

Any thoughts?



bobbywolffApril 8th, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Hi Iain,

While you, as always, make a convincing point, there lies an elephant, while somewhat hidden (if such a thing is possible). but still in the room.

If declarer, instead of having great diamonds (AQ instead of AK), then having unbreakable spades, had as much as one club, together with you, East, knowing spades will not break 4-1, that 5th club in dummy will soon be ready to roam and quickly established with the necessary spade entry in dummy after, looming large.

Therefore, as long as declarer is not 5-3-5-0 instead of 5-3-4-1 or perhaps 6-3-4-0 when partner’s spades happen to be the K10, the column’s defense looks more appropriate.

Then Bob Hamman’s wise admonition about not playing for specific cards (which still is sometimes best when it is the only hope) will apply since declarer would then need only the Ace of diamonds instead of the AK, therefore, I think, making the column line slightly superior.

However, sometimes more fun can be had when a defender goes for a lesser chance which works, allowing him to rule during the bridge post-mortem. No doubt, thought by the now fearful opponents of one’s mystical powers, is indeed a powerful weapon, especially for future encounters.

However, it might be prudent just to follow the well traveled road if one only wants to win, pretty, but not gaudy.