Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 29th, 2018

Get up, stand up: Stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: Don’t give up the fight!

Bob Marley and Peter Tosh

E North
E-W ♠ 6 3
 8 6
 A 7 5 3
♣ A 9 8 5 4
West East
♠ J 10 5 2
 Q J 9 6
♣ J 6 3 2
♠ Q 9 8
 K Q J 10 9 2
 8 2
♣ 10 7
♠ A K 7 4
 A 7 4 3
 K 10 4
♣ K Q
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 3 ♣ Pass
3 NT All pass    


The player with the South cards was looking forward to opening two no-trump when his reverie was interrupted by East’s pre-emptive two hearts. At this point, South’s options were a clumsy leap to three no-trump, which might miss a spade fit, or the more delicate approach that he followed at the table, of doubling and converting his partner’s constructive three-club call to three no-trump.

(Many people play that calls of three of a minor are constructive here, since they use a bid of two no-trump as Lebensohl, a puppet to three clubs if the overcaller does not have significant extras.)

West led the heart five, and South, ever suspicious, ducked the first heart, won the next as West reluctantly pitched a spade, and then had to decide how to play the rest of the hand. A reasonable approach would be to play for 3-3 clubs, but if you cash the top clubs, cross to the diamond ace and test clubs, you will almost be out of chances if they do not break.

South inferred from West’s reluctance to part with a spade that he had started with no more than four cards in that suit and a singleton heart, so a distribution of 4-1-4-4 seemed likely. Thus, South made a very thoughtful play when he cashed the club king and overtook the queen with the ace. When the 10 dropped, he could lead the club nine and establish four tricks in clubs to go with his five plain-suit winners, making nine in all.

This is easier if you play one no-trump to be non-forcing, so that the two-club call virtually guarantees four or more clubs. Regardless, I’d bid two spades to show a good raise to three clubs. The aces and fifth trump make this hand worth an aggressive action. For the record, if partner had instead responded two diamonds, I would either raise or give false preference to two hearts.


♠ 6 3
 8 6
 A 7 5 3
♣ A 9 8 5 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 ♣ 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


Bob LiptonJanuary 12th, 2019 at 12:35 pm

As a practical issue, I would duck the second heart, and possibly the third. Every other suit is double-stopped, so there’s no risk if 3NT is at all makeable. Give west a chance to throw a wrong card. It’s true that players rarely make unforced errors unless they’re your partner, but give west the chance.


Bobby WolffJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Hi Bob,

Your suggestion has substantial merit and though hard to quantify, might have psychological benefit enabling a crucial defensive error.

The only flaw would be the appearance in dummy of that dangerous looking long club suit which mi9ght keep West from thinking of discarding one. However, while there is not much to lose by ducking hearts (possibly an overtrick) it might dissuade declarer from overtaking the second club in dummy if West is clever enough to not throw a club away from three clubs not including both the J10.

Such are the trials and travails of high-level bridge players when they compete against one another.

Thanks for bringing up the subject, allowing others to think about such mind battles.