Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Midnight shakes the memory As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

T.S. Eliot

N North
None ♠ 10 7 6 5
 Q J 9 6 3
 7 5
♣ 8 2
West East
♠ A K Q 2
 Q J 9 3
♣ A K J 9
♠ J 9 8 4
 5 4 2
 10 8 6
♣ Q 5 4
♠ 3
 A K 10 7
 A K 4 2
♣ 10 7 6 3
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 Dbl. 4 Pass
Pass Dbl. All pass  


When this hand came up in a high standard event in the 1960s, what would nowadays be a reasonable call was then considered to be aggressive to the point of lunacy. But the value of total trumps was still not established. Sometimes, though, I wish those days would come back …

North-South were playing four-card majors, and it was North’s jump to four hearts after East’s double that was the subject of discussion. After two passes, West doubled again to end the auction.

West led the spade king, and when dummy’s trumps appeared, declarer thanked his partner for the dummy, then retracted his gratitude on seeing the rest of his hand. At trick two, West switched to a trump, and declarer, maybe still steaming over North’s lack of values, did not give the deal his full attention.

He won the trump in hand, cashed his top diamonds and ruffed a diamond, then ruffed a spade to hand. He could trump his last diamond high in order to ruff another spade, but now had to lead a club. East carefully overtook his partner’s nine to lead a second round of trumps, and South was left with a spade loser for down one.

If declarer had not lost focus, he might have won the trump in dummy at trick two. Now he would have time to trump three spades in hand (ruffing the third diamond high) for 10 tricks.

One final thought: Why didn’t West lead a trump originally? Then East could take a black suit lead and lead a second trump.

This hand feels right for Crawling Stayman to me. That is to say, bid Stayman and pass a response in a major, or correct two diamonds to two hearts, suggesting a major suit pattern broadly similar to this. Partner will typically pass, but can adjourn to two spades with 3-2 in the majors. If you don’t play this, escape to hearts instead.


♠ 10 7 6 5
 Q J 9 3 2
 7 5
♣ 8 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 NT Pass

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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