Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 26th, 2019

(The pragmatic method is) the attitude of looking away from first things, principles, ‘categories,’ supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts.

William James

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

*At least 5-5 in the red suits


When the World Youth Bridge Team Championships started exactly a year ago today in China, Phillip Alder pointed out that on the first board of each session, players often aren’t warmed up; while on the last they are in a hurry to dash out and score. But Giovanni Donati of Italy proved that he needed no wake-up call.

Against four hearts, West’s lead of the spade king went to the ace. Donati led the club nine to the jack and ace. When West shifted to the heart jack, South took that with his king and played a diamond to the seven and nine. Back came a spade, ruffed in dummy, and now declarer made the key play, leading dummy’s diamond king. When East covered, Donati ruffed, drew trumps and conceded a diamond to East’s jack to make his game.

Why did Donati find this play? Bridge at this level is played with screens bisecting the table, and on his side of the screen East had paused noticeably over four hearts. Clearly, he was thinking about making a penalty double. Since he did not have a trump stack, the only reason to justify that decision would be good diamonds.

Finally, did you notice that East could still have set the game, even after declarer’s excellent decision? The contract still would have gone down if East had not covered the diamond king with his ace. Then, if declarer had drawn trumps, he would have lost one club and three diamonds. Alternatively, if he tried to ruff another diamond in hand, West would have been able to over-ruff declarer.

This hand seems too good to pass, and I don’t think double describes it well. (I’d assume it was a balanced 9-10 count with at least two hearts.) The best way to get diamonds into play is to bid two no-trump, emphasizing the minors and suggesting more diamonds than clubs (otherwise, you would reraise clubs). Since you didn’t bid one no-trump before, you surely don’t want to play no-trump now.


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


jim2September 9th, 2019 at 5:23 pm

I wonder what card East would play if Declarer called for a low diamond (or maybe the 7D) at Trick 2?

Bobby WolffSeptember 9th, 2019 at 6:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

It is not surprising to me that you. specifically, would be “feeling” what might work. IOW, when a declarer calls a specific card (seven of diamonds?) it tries to create an atmosphere that you may have a reason to perhaps (in this case) be trying to steal a singleton queen or some such.

Yes, those are legal, ethical tactics in bridge which, of course, try and create a what turns out to be, a false assessment, even by a competent defender.

When top players play against each other, it is to be expected, forcing the combatants to not be overly influenced by the tension and, at least, attempt to make the right percentage play and not fall for the ruse.

Thanks for your post, and although there is not (at least to my knowledge) a sure fire answer, it is a ploy to which especially, up elevator bridge prospects, need to know its existence and if not now, should be soon, otherwise fall they will, as part of the growing process.

“There are many slips between the cup and the lips”.