Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Back on planet Earth they shatter the illusion The world’s going ‘round in a state of confusion

Ray Davies

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


This week’s theme involves giving your opponents a chance to go wrong. If a play has only upsides, it is clearly a useful weapon to add to your armory.

A normal auction from a teams game landed South in a poor but makeable contract on today’s deal. Not for the first time, though, the defense had other ideas, and they successfully led declarer down the garden path.

West led his fourth-highest spade against three no-trump, and declarer optimistically tried the 10, covered by the jack and ace. Needing four club tricks for his contract, declarer laid down the club ace, hoping to guess well on the next round.

When East followed with the deuce, declarer had to decide whether West had king-third or jack-third. He mentally flipped a coin and called for dummy’s 10, landing his game.

In the other room, East made declarer’s losing option more attractive by dropping the club nine under the ace, making dummy’s spot cards solid. Thus, declarer could now succeed against one 4-2 break as well — jack-nine doubleton with East. This extra chance was enough to tip the scales in favor of playing the club queen. East had swindled declarer out of his game bonus.

An interesting corollary to this is that if an expert East does not drop the nine, he cannot hold king-nine-low. However, jacknine-low is still a possibility because playing the nine from that holding would serve only to help declarer.

This hand is far from useless in context because the spade jack and diamond king should be useful fillers in partner’s long suits. Two diamonds may be the best partscore to play in, but we cannot be sure how strong partner’s hand is. We could still have a game, so passing now would be too pessimistic. False preference to two spades is best, since if partner makes another bid, we are likely to belong in game.


♠ J 5
 8 7 5 4
 K 10 8 2
♣ K 9 2
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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


Bob LiptonSeptember 25th, 2019 at 2:10 pm

When West leads the spade 6, declarer can place him without one of the Queen, Jack or 9, since he would have lead from that sequence. The odds are that he’s missing a face card, so he should play the 8.


bobbywolffSeptember 25th, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, the first part of your assumption is correct, but from QJxxx he would have lead his 4th best, allowing the 10 to win the trick, thus making him a step closer to scoring up his game even though the might lose two club tricks (instead of just one). Yes the defense may be able to then compensate and take three uninterrupted diamond tricks and thus
achieve a set, but not with the one present today and also possible others.

Also the defense, if the two high diamonds are split, can communicate to their best interest, unless the original ten of spades is lucky enough to hold.

While your play, instead of today’s declarer’s effort might work, it likely is not the very best percentage effort to succeed.