Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 7th, 2020


jim2May 21st, 2020 at 11:52 am

Victor Mollo’s Hideous Hog often held forth — usually while downing another’s drink — on the fallacy of “Best Defense.” No good declarer, he would snort, would allow such a thing.

Well, I am no HH, but giving away information to defenders is rarely a good thing. In the column hand, declarer would prefer not to have spades returned, so why make it so clear that hearts are so well stopped? Simply win the opening lead with the ace or king, and lead a small diamond towards the board, intending to play the QD or JD (concealing the 10D, as well).

Jeff SMay 21st, 2020 at 2:16 pm

One nice point is that if South produces the AS on the second round, West has to be awake enough to drop the king under it.

A V Ramana RaoMay 21st, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
As south needs only one diamond trick, perhaps there is no harm in running clubs first . Some palookas sitting east may discard a spade inadvertently and live to regret it . And even if they cling to their spades and correctly shift to spade ten, south does well by winning second round and as Jeff points out, the unblock by west becomes crucial. Again there might be some palookas who fail to unblock

A V Ramana RaoMay 21st, 2020 at 3:23 pm

Run clubs first discarding diamonds from dummy

bobbywolffMay 21st, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, HH would be among others to disown “best defense”, claiming, even if so, he will find a better offense. Such confidence, when and of course, if shown at the table, might tend to have a somewhat intimidated defender concentrating on declarer’s bravado, instead of only the cards he sees in front of him.

And, how about (instead of your sensible ploy) of playing the queen of hearts from dummy and then, although East and he have followed low, waits a bit, gazing at space, before he pretends to be lost but finally plays from dummy, as if to imply, “Did I win that trick”?

Then he leads the carefully chosen nine of diamonds from dummy, causing more confusion with East, too often interrupting his RHO concentration and thus showing the world how a better offense should look.

Of course, in HH’s defense, he has only sinned in name only and not in any illegality (which can be proven) as stipulated in the rules. Also, very few, if any, bridge books recommend how to get ready to defend against such declarers, except the hard way of being duped a few times before, when spotting a HH look alike, while arriving at the table, then fully understanding the battle that will likely soon be joined and one’s “A” game needs to sally forth to the occasion.

Finally a recommendation on how to summon that “extra” effort is to remain totally silent, no words exchanged, if necessary, choosing grunts, but turning on, to one’s highest level possible, his full concentration and thus saving one’s pleasantries for another time, another venue.

bobbywolffMay 21st, 2020 at 5:29 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Yes it could work, but only having a small chance if HH, after ducking the 10 of spades all around, then (instead of technically making the right, but not successful play of again ducking) while rising with the ace, has in hand and thought by his LHO to be his next play (before West has followed suit on the 2nd spade play) a 3rd spade about to be played, making every effort to not cause West to unblock.

Even better would be for HH to take his queen of clubs and put it with his spades, somewhat flashing to West his hand, trying his best in any way possible, to confuse his LHO to not unblock his king.

The above is a capsule description of what to expect when playing against a somewhat fanatical competitor, the likes of HH.

bobbywolffMay 21st, 2020 at 5:58 pm


Perhaps, depending on the depth of your opponent’s exact palooka status, (in this case you, as declarer would like for your opponents to be less educated with surrounding plays (a robust market) and thus I would suggest that you play quickly, look to them that you are about to claim tricks, but instead feel compelled to merely play out the hand.

That in itself, may send out the signal that they need not waste their limited bridge ability and thus carelessly comply by not miraculously surprising you with talent they usually do not possess.

Also keep in mind the technical truth of by cashing those 4 clubs it might merely take away a suit they might have switched to had you left them to their own devises.

It is indeed a strange and unpredictable experience while trying to be a “muzzy” killer, but, as a potential winner, and unfortunately for our otherwise superlative game, it too often does figure in the final placing when determining the winner.

All the above discussion on this non-technical hand which only becomes important about surrounding plays is sort of beneath what we should be talking about, but senses of humor have a right to also live.

Confused in UKMay 21st, 2020 at 8:00 pm

Hi Bobby

I am only a learner, but why has “West has only at most 4 points” ?

Cannot he also have the bare Ace of Diamonds ?

jim2May 21st, 2020 at 10:16 pm

I am not Our Host, but I believe it is a reference to South’s 2N rebid, which showed a hand too strong for 1N, but not strong enough for and opening bid of 2N.

Hence, add the HCPs visible in dummy (9) and in East’s own hand (9) to the ~19 – 20 South’s 2N showed = 37 – 38 of the deck’s 40 HCPs are accounted for. Since some bidders may decide an 18-HCP hand rich in aces and kings (and perhaps sequences and high spot cards) is also too strong for 1N, Our Host was being cautious in how many HCPs West might have.

bobbywolffMay 22nd, 2020 at 12:43 am

Hi Confused in UK,

And welcome to AOB.

The text was thinking on behalf of East, who was holding 9 hcps and of course, was closely listening to the bidding.

The above then being East’s reasoning (concentrating on doing his best to defeat 3NT), realized, or at least should have, that perhaps the only legitimate chance EW has of taking five tricks is to garner three in spades plus the known AK of diamonds.

In doing so, East needs to catch his partner with the ace or king of spades and at least 3 of them. That narrowed down knowledge then should firmly cause East to make what is called a “surrounding” play of leading the 10 from Q108x (spades, with the crucial 9 being in dummy) before declarer has the time to develop the nine tricks he has contracted for.

I will now let your considerate imagination take it from there in order to see, that declarer will not be able to do anything to overcome this superlative, but demanding defense.

Good luck and don’t be a stranger if and when you have your next question concerning any phase of our game you would like our sensational expert panel to answer (myself I say modestly, of course, excepted, but this time, and for that matter, every other time as well, listening to exactly what Jim2 has just said will totally cover what is needed to know).