Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

It takes little talent to see what is clearly under one’s nose, a good deal of it to know in which direction to point that organ.

W.H. Auden

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


In today’s deal, North looks with favor on his balanced hand and decides not to give away information to the opponents by using Stayman, so he blasts three no-trump at his first turn — a perfectly reasonable strategy that puts West under pressure at trick one.

The question of what lead is best against a blind auction to three no-trump is one that could occupy a whole column. Scratch four bridge players, and you might find five opinions. I could imagine votes for all four suits, including either a top or a low club.

But put yourself in West’s position after leading a top club against three no-trump. Declarer plays low from dummy and takes your partner’s two with the queen. Now he advances the heart queen from hand, and you have to plan the defense.

Your partner has around 7 points on defense; it is hard to see how you can set the game if he has (for example) the diamond king and heart king. You can almost count nine tricks for declarer in the form of three clubs and two tricks in each of the other suits.

The only realistic hope of saving game is a very slim one; it is that you can win four spade tricks in a hurry. Therefore, when in with the heart ace, West should lead the spade jack through dummy’s tenace — the lead of a low card would be ineffective, since dummy could duck and the king would remain guarded as a stopper in the suit.

This hand has too much to pass, but at the same time, I draw the line at bidding one no-trump with three small spades, even though I have a maximum for the call. I will double and run the risk of missing three no-trump if my right-hand opponent has responded very light. At least this way we should get to our best fit in a red suit.


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

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Bob LiptonNovember 13th, 2018 at 2:55 pm

With south’s hand, I would play low from dummy and win with the King, which I find a far more ambiguous card than the automatic highest of the sequence. West may imagine east with 3 or four to an honor.

There’s also a nice chance for a classic swindle here by leading a low spade out of hand at trick two and ducking. I would not combine the two swindles.

bobbywolffNovember 13th, 2018 at 5:41 pm

Hi Bob,

No doubt, when attempting to write a seven days per week column on any one particular subject, that writer will be faced with at least some duplication. whether it be germane, method, timely, or perhaps innovative in substance.

Today is a feature on defense, which although often very low percentage success, it needs to take its rightful place, if for no better reason, than to a manual on defying fate when a miracle is there but not in fact, realized.

The mere fact that bridge columnists have thrived for close to a century is a tribute to the game itself with its variances and complexities symbolizing, at least to one who has come to love it, the gusto which its lover seems to exude.

Today, yes west is faced with long odds to defeat this game, but some of the top thrills available have to do with making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

This emotion is often enough to satisfy a thousand cuts which, in turn can serve as an
apology to that sow.

Finally, yes the winning of the first club should be an example of deciding on which club is the best camouflage. However in regard to your possible ruse of a low spade, I will offer a negative opinion on your chances, although, to be truthful, anything is possible proving that sicker dogs than that hope, have gotten well.

Ken MooreNovember 13th, 2018 at 7:27 pm

Bob Lipton,

It seems that the above ploy would not work. Once the Spade is ducked to East, the only logical lead is Hearts. The Club 10 seems to deny higher honors, leading to the Ace Queen tenace is bad, and a Spade lead give away the Spade King.

A heart lead puts West on and then, it would not matter which Spade is lead. Either one gets the King.

Unless I am missing something, which is likely.

David WarheitNovember 13th, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Ken: What you’re missing is more ammunition for your comment. South should lead H at trick 2. After all, he doesn’t know who has the HA or how S are laid out. If E has HA, S makes at least 10 tricks. If S instead ducks a S, it’s possible–not very likely but possible–that somebody has 5S and the opponents take 4S and a H (say W has SAx and E has HA, for example). By playing H right away, S makes if a) E has HA, b) W has SA, c) W wins first or second H and doesn’t return a high S, d) S suit blocks (say E has AQJ10). Sometimes not being clever is much more clever than being clever!

Iain ClimieNovember 13th, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Hi Bobby, Bob and Ken,

Out of interest, this raises the question of what is the most sensible lead from Q109x, A109x or even AQ109(x). Against a strong NT, the last may well not appeal but what of the first two? On the auction, I might be tempted by a spade at IMPs but would almost certainly settle for a club at Pairs unless in dire need of a good score and being prepared to risk a bad one.



jim2November 13th, 2018 at 9:13 pm

Here’s another Q on this hand!

If West ducks the first heart lead, declarer still has only 8 tricks (1H + 4D + 3C).

East has good reason to suspect the AH is with West if the first heart is led from the closed hand. Which spot should East play to maximize the chance that West will find the spade shift?

Also, if South really needs two heart tricks, maybe the first heart lead should be from the Board to prevent a signal from East. Cases can be made on the psych side for various cards to lead from the Board and then to play from hand, up to leading the JH and over-taking with the KH.

Ken MooreNovember 13th, 2018 at 11:18 pm

It gets complicateder and complicateder, doesn’t it?

Bobby WolffNovember 14th, 2018 at 12:50 am

Signifying not much, but fun & games and something to discuss later, if only, to get the conscience of the players.