Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Passive defense is actually a sham defense; active defense is the only real defense, the only defense for the purpose of counterattacking and taking the offensive.

Mao Zedong

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


At the European Championship last year, the England team bid boldly, then played even better to create a swing from nowhere against Israel.

When Andy Robson overcalled in diamonds, he dipped his toe into 800 territory, and Tony Forrester pushed the boat even farther out. But their opponents ignored them and settled for four spades rather than the superior four hearts they would surely have reached without the intervention.

Forrester accurately led a diamond, which Amir Levin ducked, giving Robson a choice of defenses. He decided to continue with a top diamond on the basis that if a shift were correct, declarer would not have ducked — good psychology.

Levin now found a splendid play; he led his low heart from hand. If Robson won and returned a top diamond, declarer could use the heart king as his re-entry to hand to draw trumps, conceding just one trump trick. But if Robson returned a heart, declarer could lead out trumps from the top, again losing just one trump. He would take three top trumps, cross to the club ace and play the heart jack to pitch his diamond. In fact, the first round of hearts went to Forrester’s three (giving count) and dummy’s jack, so Robson ducked!

Now declarer played a second heart. Robson won with his ace and shifted to a club to dummy’s jack. All declarer could do was lead dummy’s top heart, pitching a diamond. Forrester ruffed and led a club for his partner to ruff, for down one.

Two diamonds can be played either as encouraging but not forcing, or as forcing for one round. Either way, though, you have a great hand and should cue-bid two hearts to try to dredge up some spade support from your partner. I would bid on over a three-diamond call, preferring three no-trump.


♠ A K 10 8 7 3
 K 6
 A 9 8
♣ 9 5
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


Iain ClimieJuly 9th, 2019 at 9:25 am

Hi Bobby,

What on earth was North doing today over 4C? With a misfit for spades and those clubs, dbl is surely the only sane bid although clearly the opposition will run to diamonds. Partner’s failure to raise hearts denies 3 while his failure to double suggests either good spades or not 2H (assuming 5 card majors), again pointing to playing for penalties.

It was a brave 3D bid from Andrew Robson although OK at Green I suppose, and the defence was top class but NS really can only blame themselves here. Still, easy after the event.



Bob LiptonJuly 9th, 2019 at 11:21 am

That puzzled me, too. North doubles,. If east pulls, south can bid 4H, showing his hand with some confidence. If west pulls, then East can either double again or better, pass Now any lead, if followed by a ducked trump at trick two, leads to down 5.


Iain ClimieJuly 9th, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Hi again Bobby,

Interesting Tony Forester doesn’t seem to agree with the late Chairman Mao. He has allegedly told at least some of his partners not to lead away form a King in an unbid suit against suit contracts without a VERY good reason. Obviously one incident too many where dummy held Axx and declarer Q109 or similar! Partner can still save the day to an extent by playing small from (say) J8x but the day you do that the lead is from Q10xx and a happily surprised declarer has K9x.

Somehow I doubt if the restriction applies to Andrew Robson but many weaker players seem to need threats of violence to try such a lead even when it is probably right. As the old joke goes, beware generalisations, including this one.



bobbywolffJuly 9th, 2019 at 4:31 pm

Hi Iain & Bob,

Not much doubt that both sides, especially at a high-level competitive bridge table (as this was) need to be aware of when to seek offense and/or when effective, aggressive defense.

This was the time when the latter, above, prevailed (for the Brits) and shall we say, IN SPADES, or is that too much?

Perhaps while at the table, even among the best worldwide players, a partnership assumes an invincible sense of protection, especially when acting with favorable vulnerability (as here) and by doing so, magically find success, by either leading their opponents to the wrong contract, and/or asking for the right defensive opening lead, and then, most importantly, finding a way to benefit.

Such was the case here when NS tried to basically ignore their pesky opponents by pretending they weren’t there, but the result strongly favored the aggressive defense, because of the inferior contract reached (because of the bidding room taken away by their highly aggressive interference).

The above, or something similar, often occurs when very good world bridge partnerships do battle. with the winning answer, for all players present to have their minds focused from the start of the bidding to the end of the play (with the dummy getting a pass on the latter). No doubt North should have doubled 4 clubs instead of his over imaginative bid of raising his partner with his (thought to be) majestic lady.

It, of course was, but not quite enough, since the wrong final contract had been reached.

This hand represents a great example of the pitfalls of bridge minds, even excellent ones, not always being focused enough between the possibility of either offense and/or defense, this time to fall victim to a disastrous result.

And Iain, sticking to only writing about it, perhaps I am only discussing a generalization not a proven fact.