Sorry for the confusion. Here's the full hand and bidding:

872         AKQ6
962         KQ5
JT98        A654
Q106        J5

North   East    South   West
1D      Double  Pass    2C
Pass    2NT     All pass

Opening lead was the 4 of Clubs.

After a low Club lead to North's Ace and winning the return with Club King, South switches to hearts. They play the Jack and North knows that declarer at least has the Queen. So as a rule, should I always overtake with my Ace?

In NT, the Ace will usually be good eventually. In this situation, playing the Ace guarantees East those two heart tricks. By holding out, I might still be able to capture the other one. I can't seem to find stats about this. It could be the right thing to do usually and this is just an edge case. Or vice versa.


  • Do you need to edit your setup to deal with the different voids? The way it looks, there aren't enough clubs on the board. Commented May 15, 2019 at 15:35
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    Please give the bidding. It seems likely that, from the bidding, North should know that East has all the remaining honors. These kinds of inferences are absolutely crucial to competent bridge play. But I can't tell that unless you tell me what the bidding was (and what the East-West agreements about the meanings of their bids are) Commented May 16, 2019 at 1:42
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    Also, the form of scoring might matter. You might play differently at matchpoint scoring, where every trick is worth about the same, or at IMP/total points/rubber scoring, where whether the contract makes or not is more important than the other tricks. Commented May 16, 2019 at 1:44
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    You haven't given us the whole hand, but it looks like South should have led a low club at trick 1, so that dummy is forced to win the first club, and North can still return a club (for South to run the remaining clubs) when they get in at some point. Commented May 16, 2019 at 1:46
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    Sorry for the confusion, all. I edited the question with the full hand and bidding. Thanks for your time!
    – Aaron
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


Agree with what Forget I was here said about the bidding. And also what they said about counting. What I want to explain is that I think the defence will prevail, if North lets the heart Jack run to declarers Queen. If declarer then runs the spades, North can pitch a diamond.

Then if declarer exits in diamonds, North will get in, and now play Ace and another heart. This promotes the 13th heart, and endplays declarer.

Observe that it is not good enough for North to exit with a low heart, for then declarer can endplay him with his small heart (this was already explained in the other answer). In a way playing the Ace and a third heart removes declarer's exit card of a low heart.

So this time it was essential for North to wait the ace. The rule of thumb of using the ace to win opponents honors would have served well. On some other hand it would be more difficult but now it is rather likely that declarer has KQ hearts.

  • Nice catch. I will update my answer to reference this. Commented May 26, 2019 at 20:24
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    A desperate East might even play Heart Q under the Ace. ;-) Commented May 26, 2019 at 20:30
  • A nice observation! That actually adds another layer to the problem @ForgetIwaseverhere. Remember that in this suggested line of defence the dummy has an inaccessible club trick. But, if the dummy discarded a heart on the fourth round of spades, then South can make unblocking contagious, and dump the blocking T of hearts under declarer's Queen, allowing North to cash out three heart tricks (sufficient for 1 down). Commented May 29, 2019 at 12:00
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    OTOH if dummy discards a diamond on the 4th round of spades, then dummy's 9 of hearts looms large. I think declarer will actually then prevail! Commented May 29, 2019 at 12:01
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    Nice! I must be rusty, as Declarer must refrain from cashing the 4th round of Spades, as that squeezes Dummy, but rather leading a low Diamond towards Dummy at Trick 7. Now if North wins and leads Heart Ace to get off the end-play, East plays Heart Queen under it to get off the endplay, South in turn plays Heart Ten to get off his end-play, and Dummy's heart 9 has been promoted. East knows this is safe because South's singleton Diamond 7 was revealed at Trick 7 , making Diamond 6 in East a vital card. Commented May 29, 2019 at 15:40

If North ducks the Heart A East can run the four Spade tricks discarding a low Heart from Dummy. Then lead of a low Diamond towards the J will endplay North thus:

North still to play to Trick 8 after Diamond 4 (from East), 7, J:

  -             -
  9             Q5
  T98           A65
  Q             -
  • If North ducks the DJ the Club Q is cashed on board and the H9 lead back towards East, giving Declarer an overtrick with 4 Spades, 2 Hearts, 2 Diamonds, and 1 Club trick.

  • Alternatively if North overtakes DJ with DQ he must either:

  • Lead a low Diamond to put Declarer on the Board to cash the CQ and lead DT for a repeating finesse, giving Declarer: 1 Heart, 4 Spades, 1 Club, and 3 Diamonds, again for contract and an overtrick.

  • Lead a low Heart killing the last possible entry to Partner's long Clubs, and giving Declarer: 4 Spades, 2 Hearts and 2 Diamonds for contract; or

  • (Killing): As pointed out by Jyrki Lahtonen, the killing defense is to cash Heart A and lead a third heart, endplaying Declarer in Diamonds for the sixth defensive trick.

    A brave (or desperate) Declarer might even play the Heart Q under the Ace in a valiant attempt to promote the 9 on board - but South's Heart 10 will win enabling the cash of three more Clubs for down three.

If North instead wins the Heart Ace (best) at trick three, returning a heart immediately and again when winning the low Diamond lead toward DJ, then he can stop the overtrick by cashing a fifth defensive trick with your long Heart.

East's 2NT rebid shows a hand too strong for an immediate 1NT overcall, likely 18-19 HCP. It need not have short Diamonds, as evidenced here. Partner's switch at trick 3 denies anything that looks like an entry, which combined with a count again suggests that the SJ is all that possibly remains in his hand.

The real point here is that:

  • No rule-of-thumb will help you in this circumstance - except to have counted the cards around the table to build a complete picture of the hand half-way through trick three.

Update - after a question correction
  1. The full hand as finally revealed did not match the original description of "After running through a couple club tricks, South chooses to switch to hearts." That description clearly implied that both the AK of Clubs were in South, not split between North and South.

    Thus South correctly led a low Club but the suit blockage revealed by East's Club to trick 2 forces South to win and switch (best). The Heart switch is reasonable on the information available, and best as the cards fall.

  2. West makes the egregious error, during the Auction, by responding 2C to East's Take-out double. When forced to bid a 3 card suit in this situation, always bid the cheapest to maximize the opportunity that Partner will be tempted to correct to NT, or some other suit. This is particularly important when it keeps the auction at one lower level, as here and whenever the opening was not 1C.

    Note that the hand can always be set on either an initial heart lead (Jack) by South, and is at least difficult for East to make after a switch by North at Trick 2 after winning the Club Ace.

  3. In the second defensive option above, after winning HA at Trick three, the long Heart does not become a sixth defensive trick. On the 4th Spade trick North must discard either that thirteenth Heart or the fourth diamond. In the latter case East then Cashes HQ (removing North's last safe exit) and leads a low Diamond to Board's Jack, leaving this:

    North still to play to Trick 10 after Diamond 4 (from East), 7, J:

      -             -
      -             -
      T9            A65
      Q             -

North can win the DK and cash the long Heart for the 4th and 5th defensive tricks, but is then end-played in the Diamonds to lead at trick twelve. East has an exact count of the hands after 8 tricks, as:

  • South is known to have started with exactly 6 Clubs and 3 Spades, thus with only 4 red cards including at least 2 Hearts.

  • North thus started with exactly 5 black cards and eight red cards, with the latter breaking exactly 4-4 to justify the Diamond opening. With a fifth Heart to the Ace North would have opened 1H instead of 1D.

  • Isn't the long heart the 6th defensive trick? (to go with 2 diamonds, 2 clubs, and the ace of hearts) Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:13
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    I want to emphasize one thing that was written. For a good player, there are no rules. There is only counting, counting, counting, figuring out everyone's hand, and then making the deductions necessary. Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:14
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    @AlexanderWoo: No. The run of four Spades forces North to either pitch his long Heart or the fourth Diamond. Once the long diamond is pitched East cashes the HQ (taking himself off an endplay) and throws North in with a diamond to the J and K. North can cash the fourth Heart but is left with just Qx of Diamonds in the two-card end position, there being T9 on board and Ax in Declarer's hand. Commented May 16, 2019 at 19:06
  • @AlexanderWoo: I believe, as outlined above, that East has an exact count of the defensive hands at the requisite time due to North having denied 5 Hearts with his 1D opening. Commented May 16, 2019 at 22:27
  • Given the bidding, I'm not leading a club as South (I'm expecting West to have at least 4 clubs, and there is no way for North to set up my clubs, and I have at most one side entry). I'm not returning a club as North either - partner can't have a side entry so it can't do any good. I think the opening lead of a heart is the only way to set the contract, and I don't promise to find that. Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:22

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