Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 7th, 2018

The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life.


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


With both North and South having five hearts and a decent hand, it’s easy to imagine them going overboard, or at least to the five-level. However, at the table both players exercised restraint, South down-valuing his hand out of a strong no-trump, and North merely inviting game. So now all South needs to do is make 10 tricks.

On the passive diamond lead, South should expect to lose a trump trick, so he must limit the loss in the black suits to two tricks. If he is not careful, he will also lose two clubs and one spade. The way to make sure of the contract is to force the opponents to lend their assistance and open up those suits to his advantage.

Declarer starts by winning the diamond ace and leading the heart jack, perhaps intending to let it run, but hoping East will incautiously cover from a doubleton honor. When the queen appears, South wins and cashes the diamonds before taking the spade ace and putting the defense in with a spade.

If East wins, he will have to open up clubs sooner or later. As it is, West wins and cashes the heart king, but must then lead clubs. Dummy plays low, and East can win the first club, but he must now concede.

If South had exited in hearts at trick five, West would have won and broken up the endplay by leading clubs. If declarer instead takes the spade finesse, either a club or the heart king followed by a second spade from West should suffice to set the hand.

Even though the opponents’ auction here would tend to get you to look at majors rather than minors, jack-fourth is hardly the most attractive of options. So I would lead from my five-card suit as being a far more promising line of attack than a four-card suit.


♠ J 8 4 2
 10 8
 Q 7 4 3 2
♣ A 4
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

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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 ClimieMay 21st, 2018 at 2:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

I was just thinking about a slightly different line at pairs. Lead the SQ at T2 and East will surely cover holding the SK. If so, then cash SJ, HA, diamond winners and exit with a trump. If East doesn’t cover then play SA, cash HA hoping they aren’t 3-0 onside and cash the diamonds before exiting with a spade (not H). Now the defence should be end-played. The line fails if East has 3 trumps and the SK is wrong but gains if the spade finesse works and would actually leave the defence stuck if East has SK and West has HKQx when they only get 2 trumps and a club. Any thoughts?



bobbywolffMay 21st, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt your line is close to 100% right at pairs, since, when holding 10 they will break 2-1 78% of the time, leaving only 11% for, in this case, of East holding KQx in trumps (approximately 1 in 9 cases). Add to that the simplicity of declaring this hand and it becomes a “slam dunk” that almost the whole field will likely, with normal breaks, take the same number of tricks, then in your opinion, to which I agree, by not at least attempting to create an extra way to make an overtrick, the declarer is settling for less than he should.

While this specific lay of the cards will unlikely occur often, the above concept should, at the very least, remain uppermost in a winning declarer’s bag of tricks.

Going the extra yard could be considered, at least IMO, the choice of winners. However, do not forget to consider Jim2 and his curse for allowing exceptions to what is said.

jim2May 21st, 2018 at 5:59 pm