Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 24th, 2018

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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


Today’s deal produced a bizarre flat board in a teams game where both declarers played four spades. I’m fairly confident there were two rather relieved Souths.

In each room, West led the heart king, won by declarer’s ace. The first South ran the spade 10, which held the trick. Next came a spade to the queen and the ace, East pitching a heart. South now ran the diamond nine, and West won his queen and played the heart king. South ruffed this trick and tried to bring in the club suit, hoping for a 3-3 break. When his second chance failed, declarer had only eight tricks. In retrospect South was kicking himself; all he had to do was to discard on the heart king, and he would have had a sure route to 10 tricks.

In the other room, the lead and play to the first four tricks were identical. But at that table, West was a very tricky customer. When declarer passed the diamond nine, East gave count, and West realized that South was either 6-2 or 4-4 in the minors. Since he had no realistic chance to set the game in the second case, West decided to give declarer an additional losing option by winning the diamond ace at his first turn!

When West returned a heart, declarer did not see any danger; he ruffed in hand, crossed to a top club, then finessed in diamonds and went down the same humiliating two tricks as had happened in the other room.

This looks like an easy problem, but it may have hidden depths. A simple bid of one spade shows four spades (a three-card suit is possible, but unlikely) but is most consistent with a balanced 12-14, and this hand is surely too strong for that. I would bid two spades, intending to show some extras. Even a call of three spades is not absurd.


♠ A Q J 3
 3 2
 9 7
♣ A K 8 6 2
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 Dbl. Pass

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Iain ClimieApril 7th, 2018 at 11:19 am

Hi Bobby,

I thought at first that the second declarer shouldn’t be conned as West might have DA alone but 4S 1H 2C 2D and 1 ruff are enough. Fair enough to fall for it at pairs, but I’m sure I’d have fallen into the trap at teams.



Bobby WolffApril 7th, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Although the theme is great and very tempting for bridge columnists, this kind of superior false card, AFAIC, rarely happens in real competition.

The reason concerns itself with the almost impossible quick-wit to which West subjects himself, besides of course, the possibility that declarer doesn’t even possess the Jack when he runs the nine.

However, this situation should be a commercial for the declarer to play relatively quick (on this hand, no particular reason not to, since it seems clear cut in order to not give a very high level and cunning West time to become wise and figure out declarer’s problem while he is considering).

And for those who are curious about so-called bridge ethics, it is, of course, not only legal but adds to bridge lore and thus enchantment, especially for bridge writers, to be enabled to report such brilliance.

Finally I agree with you that, to not fall for such a clever ruse would be unusual and I, like you, would very likely fall victim, whether it was in pairs or at IMPs, especially with the premonition that confession is good for the soul.

BobliptonApril 7th, 2018 at 3:47 pm

The important question is whether we love this game enough to congratulate the opponent who has flim-flammed us so beautifully?


Iain ClimieApril 7th, 2018 at 4:41 pm

Hi Bob,

I like to think I’d offer West a drink and only pretend I’d slipped a laxative or emetic into it. On bad days, of course, I’d have come prepared with the relevant substances.



Peter PengApril 7th, 2018 at 5:16 pm

hi Bobby

a question for some Sunday, perhaps.

I have been successful in opening 1NT when holding 18HCP, instead of a 1C or 1D as per the card.

Perhaps the 1NT opening discourages LHO to bid 2H or 2S when he/she could have bid 1H or 1S and opponents could have found a suit.


Bobby WolffApril 7th, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Hi Bob & Iain,

Enjoy your exchange of honest emotions and how to handle them to best advantage.

My experience and therefore recommendation of how best to be a good sport, courteous and forward thinking when congratulating a deserving opponent on his success (especially against you) is NEVER to allow it to happen.

If only I was adept enough to make this happen, I would speak about it more often.

Bobby WolffApril 7th, 2018 at 5:36 pm

Hi Peter,

No doubt, it is both with good feeling and hope, when an up and coming player like you, finds a way (or thinks he has) of warding off those troublesome overcalls with which our worthy opponents have a history of disturbing our paths to success.

However, if partner tends to pass a decent 8 hcp hand in response, especially one with a few 10s or 9s to which I heartily agree, since on percentage (with no interference) I much rather in both IMPs and matchpoints to play 1NT rather than 2. However opposite a full blown 18 we too often may be missing a decent game (or at least a good chance for it), making your innovative change somewhat questionable.

My recommendation (in case you are not completely zeroed in on it) is to instead with a decent 18 open 2 NT instead, but with less for your partnership, especially at matchpoints, for your partner to use his red card more often when aggressive opponents enter the fray.

Remember the old saying of “fighting fire with fire” definitely has its place in competitive bridge, although it is no doubt risky, but at the same time, it, in the long run, will sharpen up your partnership’s defense, if only because of the necessity a doubled contract demands.

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