Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Our ship of state, which recent storms have threatened to destroy, has come safely to harbor at last.


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


Even if playing a 16-18 no-trump, many Norths would choose that opening call — inflation has set in at bridge as in all walks of life. Regardless, North-South will end up in three no-trump; but, as if to justify the upgrade, West holds a natural spade lead, and that puts the game in jeopardy.

Should South win or duck the opening lead? If he ducks, West continues with the spade jack, and declarer wins in dummy with the king. Declarer now leads a low diamond from dummy; when East takes his ace, he has no spade left to play, and whatever he shifts to will not cause declarer a problem. East will most probably try a heart. Declarer can win in his hand and knock out the diamond king, and can then easily win the rest of the tricks. (For the record, though, if spades had broken 4-3, the defenders could have scored only two tricks from each of the spade and diamond suits.)

There would have been a completely different outcome if declarer had taken the first spade trick. East would win the first diamond and would be able to lead his remaining spade. It would then be too late for declarer to hold up, for West would be able to win the second round of spades and continue with a third round. No matter what declarer did, West would set up the spades and regain the lead with the diamond king to cash out his spades and defeat the contract.

You have three plausible actions here. You can overcall one diamond, perhaps planning to double if the opponents agree a suit cheaply. You can double, making sure you find a major-suit fit cheaply, if you have one, and perhaps minimizing the risk for your side, while possibly missing no-trump. Or, my choice, you can overcall one no-trump — the path with the highest risk but largest reward.


♠ K 9 5
 K Q 6
 Q J 10 7 3
♣ A 10
South West North East
      1 ♣

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieApril 17th, 2018 at 11:14 am

Hi Bobby,

It is worth leading the DQ off table either here or even if North had a club more and a spade less as East may duck with DKx (perhaps forgivably) or DAx thus failing to preserve West’s entry. Alternatively East may pick the wrong moment to show that he has read certain bridge books which highlight the occasional need to play 2nd hand high – not if he holds DKxx or Axx here although that play would still be right if West had a diamond more. I can’t think of a guaranteed way to get such early decisions right but can you help here? Egg on face seems to beckon and pity the good player who tries such an entry preserving play with awful consequences, especially if West notes that a relative novice would just play low.



Bobby WolffApril 17th, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Hi Iain,

Your imaginative and learned bridge expertise goes straight to the jugular vein in determining
high-level defense.

Yes, if East had a 3rd spade and either the king or ace of diamonds he would need to “rise” to the occasion when declarer led the first diamond off the dummy, if his partner, as here had the other top diamond and/or, of course South had the nine of diamonds in hand if he led a small one from dummy (which he always would).

And might that “keen” diamond play meet with disaster? Most certainly, if and when partner, West, had a singleton other honor.

For advice, I would only suggest, guess right, although if he or she did not, he would only normally lose an overtrick, a relatively small price to pay for a greater chance to set the contract. However, while playing matchpoints, that overtrick will be worth a likely almost 1/2 of a board, since the whole NS field would figure to be in the same contract, 3NT.

However since the whole world hates a coward, how about this solution: If declarer leads a small one off the table, then rise with the king or ace, but if he tempts by leading the queen, do not fall for his ruse, but duck and preserve the overtrick if, of course playing matchpoints.

In other words, be one step ahead in psychology, but never two, nor just as bad, one step behind.

Yes thank you Iain, you are a wonderful teacher (and very modest), which is particularly useful when we present our Monday hand, one which is usually not as difficult to grasp, but one in which you come to the rescue and find a way to magnify its importance.