Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

It doesn’t much signify whom one marries, for one is sure to find next morning that it was someone else.

Samuel Rogers

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


Today’s deal from a recent tournament appeared under the headline of the old proverb: “For the want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost.”

As the writer indicated, it is probably lucky for all of us how rarely our small inaccuracies are as heavily punished as was the case today. If we all got our just deserts, life at the bridge table would be no fun at all.

You could argue that East-West did not deserve a good result, given East’s overcall in spades on that miserable five-carder, though it did get his partner off to the best lead against no-trump. (Of course, West led the spade two, which had the effect of blocking the suit.) North-South had certainly done well to get to the best game; now all South had to do was make the maximum.

Declarer won the first spade and had to decide what to do next. What would you have done? South missed the technically best play (as might we all), of cashing the diamond ace at trick two. Instead she tried to run the clubs and got the bad news when West pitched two hearts and then a spade.

Now declarer finessed the diamond jack and ran into about the only lie of that suit that could hold her to eight tricks. If she had cashed one top diamond at trick two, she would have taken four tricks in the suit instead of two, which would have represented about half a top difference in the results on this deal.

I’m prepared to jump to four heats, gambling on finding a top card in a black suit opposite, since West is very likely to be short in diamonds and to lead that suit. If he does, I’d be optimistic about having nine top tricks in the red suits and finding another trick somewhere else.


♠ J 7
 A Q 8 7 3
 A K J 9
♣ J 4
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMarch 12th, 2019 at 9:17 am

You say that S only made 8 tricks. No, she makes 9. After losing the D finesse, E returns a S and W makes 3 S tricks and then switches to a H. S plays the A, cashes the DA, exposing W’s holding in that suit, then runs 4 C tricks and 2 more D tricks (S having discarded a D and a H on the run of S). Correct play would have allowed her to make 10 tricks.

David WarheitMarch 12th, 2019 at 10:02 am

Oops, E cashes his C before leading a S. Down one. Me sorry.

bobbywolffMarch 12th, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Hi David,

Me doesn’t have to be sorry since if the bridge god was in his heaven he would (should) have ruled on fault alone that the declarer was the one who had done the greater bad with West leading the deuce of spades instead of the “possibly difficult to read eight” the only transgression for EW.

This is not to infer that bridge results even out with luck, and for a witness, let’s ask Jim2, unless we just, for bridge political reasons, decide to give third and low leads credit for superiority over fourth best (down two instead of only one).

jim2March 12th, 2019 at 6:01 pm

The luck always evens out at my table. No matter how bad my luck is on any given hand, my opponents’ have just as much GOOD luck. 🙂

This hand is a case in point. My partner did not like the looks of his/her spade stopper and simply put me in 4H.

East led the 4S and I was impressed by the quantity of my partner’s confidence in me. Before I could say something about being flattered, however, pard hurriedly left the table for the person’s room. Clearly, South wanted time away from the table and spotted how to do that.

There are various ways to 10 or 11 tricks, and ended up with one of the 11 trick ones for a below average Board.

See what I mean?

bobbywolffMarch 12th, 2019 at 7:39 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since I have always been enthralled with your TOCM TM disease and how it influences bridge results, your today post is fascinating to me about how bidding 4 hearts and making an overtick, +650, turned out below average.

Trying to accept legitimate facts, rather than supernatural, it is possible that South opened one diamond (partly for rebid purposes and mostly to get a favorable opening lead) and after West passed, partner responded 1 heart, East then, based on the vulnerability, and his experience of being a tough opponent (as well as a tough to play with partner) doubled holding 5-5 in the unbid suits. After West had introduced spades in the bidding, South. perhaps hoping for Jxx in dummy rather than Jx chose 3NT. The after a spade lead and declarer winning it in hand the led a diamond to the ace and then the king, finessed for the likely 10 of clubs (perhaps a 6-1 favorable shot) and wound up with 11 tricks, or possibly 12 or even 13 when East threw away the jack of hearts hoping to induce a finesse as sort of a double, double cross, as West had to hold his spade king.

However South became satisfied with his extra trick in clubs and played conservatively in the end, but wound up with a windfall.

So perhaps you became lucky to only get a below average board for making 11 tricks in hearts.

Leaving all the readers, if any are still left, to think of you as ungrateful for the few matchpoints you scored up.

jim2March 12th, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Sorry about thralling anyone!

East led a club, reasoning perhaps that any other suit could give up a trick and hoping to give West a ruff — and he would succeed! Winning in hand with JC, I decided that the spade honors had to be split. That meant East had to have every other freakin’ HCP. So, I led xH, West won JH to give his partner the ruff he had planned from the very start.

I won the return, drew trump, and played minor winners from the top.

Best I could tell in the bar later, the declarers in 3N mostly won the second spade lead, played a top diamond, and sat back to drink, er. think.

Most decided (as I had) that the spade honors were split, so they cashed the diamonds and watched East squirm. Some Easts pitched a club, so that was 11 tricks. Others watched East divest himself of every single remaining spade but not one round suit card. So they cashed the AH, read the JH, played the JC, and went for all the MPs.

So, yes, I made 11 tricks, and got the same below average that I would have from 10.


PenneyMarch 16th, 2019 at 11:29 am

Thanks for finally talking about >Aces on Bridge > Blog Archive > The Aces on Bridge:
Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 <Liked it!