Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

But to us, probability is the very guide of life.

Joseph Butler

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


Despite having four hearts on the side, South tried to exploit the vulnerability by opening three spades and was promptly raised to game. (Yes, three no-trump was a serious practical alternative for North.)

An aggressive lead is often called for against a pre-empt: Since it is unlikely that declarer has many high honors outside his own suit, the lead will rarely give him anything he cannot do for himself. This might have suggested a red-suit lead from West, specifically a heart. But West chose the safe lead of the club 10, giving declarer a reprieve. After throwing two diamonds on the top clubs and ruffing a club, declarer drew trumps, unwilling to give the defense a chance to score a heart ruff. He then played a diamond toward dummy’s king, hoping to steal a trick or build a discard.

East captured dummy’s diamond king with the ace and returned the suit. Declarer had to ruff and could delay the decision no more. He guessed to run the heart nine immediately and went down when the hand with the short spades had the heart 10. A winning approach would have been to run the heart jack first. Had he next led a heart to the queen, he would have come home.

But perhaps a better approach is to take the spade king, then the ace. When East turns up with three trumps, declarer can win the spade jack and lead a low heart from dummy. That allows for almost any distribution in which West has the heart 10 or, as in the actual deal, when East has honor-10 doubleton.

Inviting with distributional hands is rarely profitable, as partner never knows which of his cards will be working. Here, just force to game, expecting to make it most of the time. There still remains the issue of strain. Four hearts could easily be the right game, so bid Stayman, intending to raise two hearts to game and bid four spades otherwise.


♠ K Q 7 4 3 2
 J 9 8 3
 9 7 2
South West North East
    1 NT 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