Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Until you understand a writer’s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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


Against four spades, the heart five was led to East’s jack, South correctly following with the three. This left open the possibility that West had led from a four- or three-card holding, since East-West were playing third-and-fifth leads in partnership suits.

With dummy’s long suit menacing, East shifted immediately to the club jack. South covered with the king, the card he was known to hold from East’s perspective, after West’s failure to lead a top club. West won his ace and reverted to hearts.

East now knew West had a doubleton heart, but what would be the purpose of continuing the suit? The defenders’ best chance might have been to cash a second club trick, but East saw that if West had held the club queen, he would have taken it before playing a second heart.

At any rate, with the bad spade split, there was a good chance the setting trick would come from the trump suit, as long as declarer could not pick it up. So East forced dummy with a third heart. If West had had queen-fourth of spades, this would have beaten the game legitimately, but even here it made declarer’s task next to impossible.

To bring home his game, South would have needed to take a first-round finesse of the spade 10, but he cashed the spade king and went down. He would have had a similar problem if West had been dealt queen-third in spades. Of course, after a club continuation at trick three, declarer would have cashed the spade ace, revealing the 4-0 split.

Bid two clubs. With an honor in partner’s second suit and a ruffing value in hearts, which is likely to be partner’s fragment (he is probably close to 4=3=1=5 pattern), you can see clubs will play well opposite even a four-card suit. If partner has any extras, game may be in the picture. You do not quite have enough for a call of three clubs, but with the club jack instead of the three, I might make that call.


♠ K 10 2
 10 4
 A Q 6 5 4
♣ 9 4 3
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass

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Bobby WolffJanuary 16th, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Hi Everyone,

Although today’s hand lacks a bit in excitement, it, in addition to having a say in a relatively basic defensive tactic .. forcing declarer to take a precarious view in the trump suit for him to succeed; nevertheless, at least IMO, becomes, or better said, might develop into a difficult ethics discussion, which, to my way of thinking, has no real authoritative or anywhere near a 100% response as to, an in-mid- defense enduring a long huddle.

Simply put, defender after taking the first trick, will find himself on the horns of a dilemma, especially at matchpoints, since he would like to accomplish two goals, leading a club through declarer, but after that effort is done (with no way to predict its result), get in with a 2nd heart (able to be cashed) in order to force the dummy, in what looks like a reasonable chance for partner to likely take a trump trick (because of East’s void).

From a practical standpoint. in order to arrive at the above, East may have to scrutinize the opening heart lead, then decide what to do before switching to the obvious club .. rather than first to cash the 2nd heart; and if so, whether to play the jack of clubs or a low club, at least attempting to give partner a club count. All of the above will, at best, take an appropriate amount of time, but, by doing so, partner might well become better placed as to what defense needs to be followed.

If the play then goes as the defense hopes it will, with the declarer then not be willing to stake the contract on playing West for the Jxxx in spades, (although East’s hesitation, and/or West’s defense may tip him off) but in truth, it is more difficult than one may imagine to then, willy-nilly take a strong view based on a first round defense by a slow defender’s huddle.

My point in presenting this conundrum is threefold: 1. bring up the thorny problem of during-hand ethics, and what should be expected and an ethical way to respond; 2. whether the possible victim has a case, when this, or something similar occurs; 3. Most importantly, how a TD and then a committee, if, in fact, it goes in that direction, should decide.

Perhaps the above doesn’t belong in a bridge column, and I may agree, but, with our august group (including many) to have an opinion to share.

Please, just assume that NS would be protesting East’s huddle, allowing his partner to guess correctly the reason for it, and furthermore, to East at trick 2, switching to the jack of clubs (which partnership systemically leads with or without the KJ10) and declarer contributing the queen.

Please ignore if anyone thinks the above will only be an exercise in frustration.

Iain ClimieJanuary 16th, 2020 at 5:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

A few stray thoughts here. Firstly, East surely hasn’t got 8 hearts to the AKQJ (although I suppose he could have HKQJxxx and CKJ10x) so the 2nd heart will hold up if East has solid hearts. Secondly, with the alternative hand I described, East might try the CK at T2 as he know where the AH is and that club tricks are needed pdq. Thirdly, David Warheit has said that his convention card states “Partner and I always hesitate at T1 and have a think”. That should at least minimize the problem.



Bobby WolffJanuary 16th, 2020 at 7:37 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, and in addition, if East didn’t want a heart back, he could always win the first heart with the ace.

A question mark in David’s method, although in his case we who know him, would not worry, is that, while announcing that, it might be difficult to never manage an exception, even though it was an entirely, no never mind situation and while, in this case winning the jack (as a matter of habit) and then studying long and hard might still be helpful to the defense, at the very least, letting partner know that, like the rifle range, the flag was waving eg, SOMETHING IS UP, but if East was missing the ace of hearts he would likely lead a club back post haste, or, of course, he had a singleton club (assuming that West, with the bidding, might think it possible.

However, being a TD or an integral member or chairman of a committee goes with it, being able to understand our game better than others and hopefully, at the very least, in the same class or better, than the players in question (not always possible).

Going further, I am especially in favor of having precedents, if possible, available for both the TDs to check and, if hazy, certainly to peruse later for the specific committee to consider.

When I was active, none of the above was available, but it could be now, however, to my knowledge is not, except possibly as hearsay by some members of the committee.

And, with a long ago admonition of a bridge interpretation of what is meant by the term, “manifestly incorrect” which, at least to me, was radically misinterpreted, at a long ago World Championship, changing the actual winner.

When, and if, should a committee, starting with the chief TD, but continuing with a hoped for Blue Ribbon committee, including the writer of those laws, insert his or her own belief what a phrase in the laws should be meant to be?