Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 4th, 2020


A .V. Ramana RaoJuly 18th, 2020 at 9:24 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Quite an instructive hand for defense but perhaps east could have played diamond J and once it holds, the club J shift becomes rather apparent

jim2July 18th, 2020 at 10:48 am

One way to avoid the question is to bid five hearts. If N-S begin with two rounds of spades followed by South ducking the first two rounds of trump, then you are down one. Other than that (hardly unlikely with good defenders) defense, five hearts comes home. Even down one, however, is better than letting four spades doubled score up.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2020 at 11:42 am


First, I totally agree to your “instructive hand” description, since a fast determining defense, requiring East playing a higher diamond at trick two, the jack sufficing, but perhaps the ace being more practical, for fear of declarer holding a singleton king. Next, and of course, East switching to the jack of clubs rather than a small one, hoping partner possesses the 10 of clubs, but if not the ace of hearts instead of the QJ.

In it’s sublime way, dummy, rather than West, holding the nine of clubs may well, with specific layouts, definitely come into play, certainly causing more stress on the defense, and IMO basically requiring East to switch to the jack of clubs rather than (on this specific hand), a very ugly, low one.

BTW, the dummy holding that singleton heart should alert East to expect declarer to hold 4+ hearts, otherwise partner will have made a TO double, while holding a 6 card major, at least to me, an unlikely combination.

All of the above becomes proof positive, at least to me, what an incredible part, being adept in numbers (especially in counting to 13 so many times on offense or defense) plays in becoming the player of bridge all of us strive to be. IOW, there is no substitute for that talent, for without it, one’s ceiling to advance, will almost always remain lower than desired.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Hi Jim2,

And like AVRR your philosophical discussion adds important flavor to the conversation.

However, Milton’s poignant quote, though too often applicable to partnership discussion in bridge, is not vain nor phony in this case, but emphasizes offense in bridge (offering many potential combined tricks between both sides, when their longest suits are trump).

IOW, as you suggest, both sides mesh, rather than a mess when discussing declaring rather than defending (19 total tricks available with two more in the oven, if miss defense occurs).

And further yes, on defense East needs to switch to the jack of clubs, but if EW are declaring at the five level, South needs to duck the first two rounds of trump (hearts), otherwise a disaster.

Chalk the NS advantage up to North with his 4 spade preempt and the EW timidity to West choosing a TO double instead of a simple 2 heart overcall, but in actuality the par contract of NS 4S doubled, down one was, at least theoretically attained.

Jeff SJuly 18th, 2020 at 2:30 pm

Isn’t going one down in 5H a little tricky? If West trumps the second spade, South takes the third round of trump and leads a third spade. If West trumps, South will eventually take his last trump and two more spades, won’t he?

It seems like West must duck the second spade so the third one can be trumped on the board. Or am I missing something?

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2020 at 5:43 pm

Hi Jeff S,

If declarer, West, trumps the 2nd spade and then leads trump, to which South ducks both, he will (after learning about the original 4-1 break go back to his business of then finessing the club and eventually only losing both of South’s two trump (his A and little one) for making only ten tricks, losing in all, two trumps and one spade.

For declarer to get the same result he can refuse ruffing the 2nd spade, but at that time he doesn’t know about the bad trump break and would not give up attempting to make the hand with a 3-2 trump break.

Both the same result, but at least by ruffing the second spade declarer will be well placed to make the hand until he finds out about trump.

However, your dilemma is a good experience and will be a reminder on the touchy problem of having enough trump to survive and by the same and more important reason of why, if on defense, to make sure you will duck both of the early rounds of trump in order to wrest control from declarer.

Yes, your above analysis is correct if, in fact, declarer makes the mistake of leading a third trump after the defender who held four originally has ducked the first two.

jim2July 18th, 2020 at 5:46 pm

Jeff S –

Once South ducks the second trump (revealing 4-1 break), declarer merely plays off winners.

(If South declines to ruff the fourth club, North is known to be 5-1-4-3, so KD and finesse.)

South will get two trump tricks for down one. That is, South can ruff small, but declarer retains trump length control such that the only other trick lost is the ace of trumps.

Ruffing the second spade and playing two rounds of trump simply gives declarer a chance to succeed on a defensive error, or if trump are 3-2, or ace singleton.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2020 at 7:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Well explained, but victimized by TOD, (timing of description) losing out by three minutes.

However take heart, by only taking up 10 lines, instead of the 21, I unnecessarily used, to echo the same thing.