Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 16th, 2019

The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet.

Edward Thomas

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


In today’s auction, South opted for a simple overcall, rather than a preempt. Then West decided on a simple raise, planning to re-compete with a further raise if he had the chance. He didn’t, because North exploited the vulnerability to drive to five diamonds, hoping his clubs would come in handy.

No one had anything further to say, but looking at his high-card values, West sensibly led out ace and another diamond. Declarer realized that there was a spade trick to lose, and now that dummy was reduced to two trumps, declarer could no longer take three heart ruffs.

In order to bring his game home, declarer realized that he needed to bring in dummy’s clubs. At trick three, he played a club to the ace and ruffed a club, bringing down the king from East. If clubs broke 3-3, declarer would have the entries he needed via heart ruffs both to set up and then to enjoy the clubs. But if clubs broke 4-2, he would be an entry short.

South found a neat solution via a variation on the Morton’s Fork. He played his spade king next. If East had taken it, the spade queen would have been the third entry to dummy, allowing declarer to set up clubs. East saw through South’s stratagem and held back the ace, but declarer countered by cashing the heart ace, ruffing a heart and then leading the club jack, on which he threw the spade four from hand. West won with the club queen, but that was the last trick for the defense.

Invitational auctions call for passive leads, but even so, our strong spade suit should surely be led. The problem is that we do not know which spade; a low card could be very silly if each opponent has three cards and your partner has no high card. But if one defender has the doubleton king or partner has the doubleton spade 10 or king, you’d much rather lead a low card. I’d go for the spade queen with minimal confidence.


♠ A Q J 6 4
 Q 9 2
♣ 10 8 6 2
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 NT All 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 ClimieSeptember 30th, 2019 at 10:32 am

Hi Bobby,

A lovely piece of play to brighten my morning. I thought for a moment that E/W might have a cheap save with only 3 obvious losers but the round suit singletons could make that a very expensive misjudgement indeed! Double dummy, HA, ruff, CA, ruff, H ruff, club for tump promotion is really painful but even single dummy (club lead, C ruff, HA, H ruff, club) is bad enough.



bobbywolffSeptember 30th, 2019 at 3:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Although my eternal optimism might suggest that South would probably not lead his singleton club vs. 5 spades doubled, since he apparently had a natural trump trick, nevertheless that vulnerability, likely would suggest that North might be taking an advanced sacrifice, suggesting East to not take a flyer vs. a sacrifice, which in bygone days was affectionately known as “last bidder gets the zero”.

And speaking of days of yore, that Morton’s fork seems (at least to me) to resemble ballroom dancing in its grace and rhythm, an often romantic interlude, much then enjoyed by both sexes, but nevertheless apparently vanished, with little trace.

Finally after today’s hand was completed, EW were both heard to mutter, “Forked again”.