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When Should You Take Your Ace?


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Defending isn't easy. Nothing feels worse as a defender than when declarer starts to claim and you look down at an ace that won't take a trick. That is a visceral feeling, but players don't notice as much when they take their ace too early and give up an extra trick as a result. This second situation is much more common. So when is it right to take an ace? A good rule is to avoid playing your ace "on air" (not capturing an honor), but an even better rule is to "think". 

 

Test yourself on these deals. 

Let's start with a lead problem.

You are West. 

♠ A8653  
♥ Q5  
♦ J1098  
♣ AQ
 

The auction is: 

WestNorthEastSouth
 1♠  Dbl  2♠  3♠
 All Pass      

What is your lead?

Choose One:

♠A

Low Spade

♠5

♠J

♠A

This time you are East. What should you play in the following situation (assuming standard signals)?

WestNorthEastSouth
       1NT
 Pass  2♠  Pass  2♠
 All Pass      

Partner leads the ♠J. Dummy plays low. 

Vul:None
Dlr: S

DUMMY

♠ Q74
♥ KJ987
♦ 43
♣ J87

 
   

YOU

♠ A95
♥ Q64
♦ KQ32
♣ 943

     

What spade do you play?

Choose One:

♠A

♠9

♠5

The joker that I keep in my pocket for emergencies

You are East, again. Standard signals. What's your play at trick one?

The auction: 

WestNorthEastSouth
       1♠
 Pass  3♠  All Pass  

 

Partner leads the ♠Q. 

Vul:E-W
Dlr: S

DUMMY

♠ 965
♥ A987
♦ AQ32
♣ 98

 
   

(YOU)

♠ A1086
♥ 106
♦ KJ4
♣ A1043

     

 

Choose One:

♠A

♠10

♠8

♠6

You are East. The contract is 3NT on the auction below. 

WestNorthEastSouth
       1NT
 Pass  3NT  All pass  

 

Partner leads the ♠J. 

Vul:None
Dlr: S

DUMMY

♠ Q65
♥ K72
♦ 54
♣ KQ1042

 

 

 

   

YOU

♠ AJ1043
♥ 1065
♦ Q72
♣ A5

     

You play the ♠7 (standard). Declarer plays the 3. Partner plays the ♠8 and you play the ♠Q, declarer taking the ♠A. Now declarer leads a club to dummy's K, partner playing the ♠3. And you?  

Choose One:

Take the ace and play a diamond

Take the ace and play a spade

Take the ace and play a heart

Duck smoothly

Think a long time and then duck

You are West. The contract is 4♠ on the auction below. 

WestNorthEastSouth
       2♠
 Pass  4♠  All Pass  

 

You lead the ♠J. 

 

You take in dummy--a bit of an overbid. Maybe South is a famously conservative preemptor. 

Vul:Both
Dlr: S

DUMMY

♠ A43
♥ K42
♦ KQ53
♣ 876

 

YOU

♠ J1092
♥ Q3
♦ A764
♣ Q43

   
     

Declarer wins ♠A in dummy (partner playing the ♠K which should promise the ♠Q). Declarer now plays a low heart to the ace, partner playing the 5. Declarer now leads the ♠8. What do you do? 

 

 

Choose One:

♠A and play a spade

♠A and play a club

♠A and continue diamonds

♠A and play a heart

Some low diamond