Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 7th, 2020


MirceaApril 21st, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Hi Bobby,

Nice T1 problem for East. I guess this falls into the category “don’t waste your honors on such menial things as a 10” or “why is declarer playing the 10 from dummy?” (or both)

Should West lead the 9 from J983 or J973? More broadly, is leading second best better than fourth best from an honor-less 4- or 5-card suit when leading such a suit appeals to the opening leader? I could never get a straight answer to this question, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t any.

bobbywolffApril 21st, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Hi Mircea1,

To coin a new bridge phrase, “Right the last time”.

What the column does not say is that East, if West has led from the unsupported ace, not the jack, by playing his king, helps to clarify the suit for the defense, so that both defenders may be better prepared to defend well later, and, more so, that knowledge may be critical.

However, since we all can clearly see a lost trick (the contract one) for the defense by East sacrificing his king, we, at least on this hand, to be successful, then, need to call on our bridge detective work as the hand progresses, to get back to where we began, before the opening lead, for neither defender, if possible, to again lead diamonds.

For that to happen, both defenders need to be aware of bridge card combinations and when it becomes necessary, to most times, as the play develops, especially so, how the declarer then goes about playing the hand and then what it will take (from the defender’s viewpoint) for the defense to prevail (hold declarer to fewer than nine tricks).

Sometimes no easy task and especially so when the defense needs to follow ethical rules and not give unautorized information defensively by purposeful hesitations, such as a long enough study then a telltale duck, unless it is well understood, that the key defender, this time at trick one was merely thinking about the whole hand which may or may not include, holding the diamond king.

Yes, the above often becomes a “key” factor with that result and all I can offer is that in my many years of competition and while playing against peers, almost everyone involved on both sides get to know who is trying to act within the ethical rules and who is not (taking undue advantage).

In the above case, much of that determination may lie, as the play develops, whether the defensive view of what then was done, tried to cater to East having or not having that king in the manner of their specific defense later. IOW, since everyone at a sophisticated bridge table would know East’s dilemma at trick one, did the defense try to allow for both contingencies in their following play, and if so, they should be given the doubt as to their proper ethics.

Not always a “slam dunk” decision, but believe it or not, after years of playing against each other and thus being better qualified to judge, reaching a proper conclusion is not as difficult as it might seem. Of course, first the TD, if called, or possibly the committee later, will have to make a possibly tough decision which will need proper experience by, at least a couple of the members of that committee (and then a precedent set on the entire defensive play, NOT DONE UP TO NOW, IN SPITE OF MY CONSTANT PROTESTATIONS).

A lot of words above, signifying not much, but still IMO worth discussing, because of its frequency in occurrence.

Finally and from J973 I prefer the three (IOW, not the nine) but from J983 I still prefer the three, but am willing to lead the nine if partner thinks otherwise. IOW, I deem the number held is more often important, rather than the advantage of holding the 98.

Thanks, Mircea for your post, since both your comments were interesting as IMO was the other peripheral discussion about a different topic, which attempted to cover a very wide range subject about a sometimes extremely sensitive one.

Iain ClimieApril 21st, 2020 at 7:01 pm

Hi Bobby,

It is a very good hand for reverse attitude signals. Playing the 5 (or even 4) pretty much clarifies the position as East has no particular reason not to play Ace and another from Axx. There again, what if East has 54 alone?



bobbywolffApril 21st, 2020 at 7:52 pm

Hi Iain,

When normal or reverse attitude signals are discussed, I tend to look away, since methinks those two different methods are less than a single thread apart in value.

However, since the specific card played often needs to be thought about, it then, in fact, acts as an added reason (excuse) for not following in normal tempo, therefore tempering, but likely not completely eliminating, the out of tempo 3rd hand play.

It is likely that the attempt to eliminate all lawyering will never be 100% effective.