Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 27th, 2020


ClarksburgJanuary 10th, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Hello Bobby
From recent local Club on-line game. Matchpoints. EW Vul. E deals.
North Q1054 A 10942 AJ42
East 63 109 AJ763 Q1065
South KJ92 KJ43 KQ5 73
West A87 Q87652 8 K98
The contract is 3S, uncontested, declared by North.
No successful defense. In all plays East led the H10, and West, when in with the Spade Ace returned a heart. So the result was making ten tricks.
My question is about East’s choice of opening lead and West’s choice of return after taking the SA.
Your thoughts / suggestions would be helpful. Thanks.

Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2021 at 3:03 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

No doubt success and/or failure are brought about mostly by the handling of mundane hands, which may be and sometimes are, guided by mostly luck as to the exact final contract and from which side, often (usually) determined decided by that fickle lady, Dame Fortune.

The good news is that in the course of bridge, life will approximately be guided by the immutable law of averages, always there to even things out, but certainly not timely at which moment she goes into her act.

Here, with East the dealer, I expect it to go E.P. S1D (5 card majors and worth an opening) W 1 heart, worth a chirp, especially at matchpoints, but likely (based on whom the declarer turned out to be, not made) 1 spade by N, E P, S. 2 spades, N. 2NT, E.P, South 3 spades (4 of them but a balanced minimum), next, all pass.

East led the ten of hearts, a clear choice (if partner bids them, but certainly not, if he doesn’t,, although either a club or the Ace and one diamond probably would save the extra trick gleaned by NS, a trick which was likely worth about 1/2 a board (a huge difference in a normal duplicate).

All mostly just the luck of the exact bidding, and broken down with who turned out to be declarer, since it would have been South (negative dbl. being used) if West would have overcalled one heart and he may have led his singleton diamond against the final 3 spade contract and then after ruffing the diamond returned obviously have led a low club to his partner’s suit preference lowest diamond, holding declarer to nine tricks. (losers being ace of diamonds, queen of clubs and two diamond ruffs).

All the luck of the game, brought forth by who became declarer and AFAIK normal judgment by the defense, based on their hands and not considered anything but normal.

IOW, showing the luck involved in matchpoints, based more on player’s luck, than any other factor, but having an enormous factor (1/2 a board) on the number of matchpoints each side garnered, compared with the measly 1 IMP difference at IMPs or only 30 points in rubber bridge.

No more no less.

BTW, did you get a chance to read my answer on last Sunday’s query?, If you didn’t I suggest you look it up, since I do believe it might be more helpful than today’s discussion since I feel that not much can be done to change today, except by being luckier with close choices by the players, none of which could be thought to be abnormal.

Good luck and I think worthy to be discussed among your progressive group of players, especially last week.

Also good fortune with your attempt of attempting to become the current active Johnny Apple bridge seed speaking, a noble enterprise.

ClarksburgJanuary 10th, 2021 at 5:34 pm

Thanks Bobby
Perhaps I should have been more explicit on the point of my questions.
I sat West. When having taken the Spade Ace I had to decide whether to risk returning a Heart (playing Partners H10 lead as a singleton) or switch to my singleton Diamond (thus enabling holding them to nine tricks). I judged “singleton”, returned a Heart and gifted the overtrick.
It is clearly not realistic for E to lead DA (yielding a one-trick set). But then what? Some years ago, an Andrew Robson column ranked various blind leads. He ranked the doubleton dead last!! Your views? Over the long run, would a trump or a Club have been a better choice?

Yes I did read last Sunday’s material, and thank you for that. I think that DI, being nuanced / subtle would be prone to our forgetting when it’s ON. I am going to suggest to my partner we play Redwood. We do of course, with known ten trumps, “show” the Queen even if we don’t have it.
As a footnote, playing mainly Pairs, I consider bidding slams (infrequent) much less important than trying to do a good job on the frequent part-score Boards.
Thanks again.

Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2021 at 10:13 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Coincidentally, perhaps 35+ years ago I got to know Andy quite well and we developed a solid friendship. However time has taken its toll and passed so fast, I haven’t had time to moan about my having lost touch.

Yes DI demands the familiarity it requires and definitely is not for casual partnerships, not only for remembering, but also for evaluation.

Applying worst, best or even some numerical order in order to judge general actions has no appeal to me, since my emphasis consists mainly of being at the table, knowing which player did this or that (including both bidding and play) and then chancing judgment gleaned, for my choice.

Somewhat evasive to my questioner perhaps, but definitely on target for my answer. No doubt the above is similar to (I believe) Mr. Davis, forgot his first name, of the then Oakland Raiders (NFL) said it best, “Just win, baby”.

IOW, taking advantage of an opponent’s tempo (though hopefully
never one’s partner) and his or her mannerisms is worth more than a peak (which itself is rated as advantageous as winning two finesses).

Some may say that I am loath to commit myself and therefore a coward, to which I have no comment.