Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

Thomas a Kempis

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


North-South had done well to maneuver themselves out of three no-trump or five diamonds, but four spades was hardly a bed of roses.

At the table declarer won the first heart lead and led a diamond to the king. East ducked, won the second diamond, and had a real problem. Did his partner have a possible trump trick or four small spades? Eventually he gave his partner a diamond ruff (the correct defense, since if West had jack-fourth of spades and no club jack, he could revert to hearts and eventually build a second trump trick for himself). When West took the diamond ruff he also took his time before finding the best defense, a trump exit. Now declarer had eight top winners, but no way to take a heart ruff and draw trump or to set up clubs without losing two tricks in the process.

Declarer’s safest play was to duck the heart ace and let the defenders win the first trick. He needs to knock out the diamond ace while keeping hearts under control, and if the adverse trumps are split 4-2, a heart force of South’s hand would be embarrassing. The simplest plan is to invest a heart trick, letting North, the hand with the shorter trumps, take care of subsequent rounds of hearts, if need be. Then trumps can be drawn, if necessary in four rounds, and diamonds established. Four trumps, four diamonds, and two side aces would make the game without any need for heart ruffs or club finesses.

You might make a responsive double, converting a three heart response to three spades (suggesting a better hand than bidding three spades directly). The problem with that action is that if partner instead bids three spades over your double, you won’t know what to do. I think nonetheless that double is right, planning to pass a three spade response and relying on partner to do more if he has extras.


♠ A J 7 4
 A 6 5
 J 9 3
♣ 10 6 3
South West North East
Pass 2 Dbl. 3

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact