Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Life is not found in atoms or molecules or genes as such, but in organization; not in symbiosis but in synthesis.

Edwin Grant Conklin


East North
North-South ♠ 8 2
 A K Q 10 9 3
 A
♣ Q 10 5 2
West East
♠ K J 4
 8 7 2
 J 8 3
♣ J 8 6 3
♠ 9 7 6 5
 5 4
 K 10 7 6 5
♣ 9 7
South
♠ A Q 10 3
 J 6
 Q 9 4 2
♣ A K 4
South West North East
Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT Pass
6 NT All pass    

8

This deal from the 1993 Epson Simultaneous Pairs was played at the top of the Post Office Tower in London with a host of dignitaries and assembled top players. It demonstrates the principle of not giving unnecessary information to declarer to allow him to count out your hand, an idea espoused by the great Jean Besse, who referred to the irrelevant small cards as neutrinos.

At the table North-South (who were playing weak no-trumps) reached six no-trump. On a heart lead declarer cashed the club ace and king, then ran the hearts as East discarded enthusiastically in diamonds. West — a former World Champion — threw three diamonds, and declarer played a spade to the queen and king.

West now returned a low club to the queen, East throwing a spade and South, a diamond. So far so bad from declarer’s perspective, but the diamond ace forced a spade from West. Now declarer knew that both defenders had only one spade left, as East was guarding diamonds and West clubs. He could thus play a spade to his ace in complete confidence.

Do you see the small defensive error? West knew she was going to have to discard a spade eventually, so she should have thrown one on the sixth heart. Then declarer does not get the complete count on the diamond suit and has to guess the spade suit in the ending. By showing a void in diamonds, West turned declarer’s hypothetical count on the deal into a sure thing.


Your partner's double is takeout, not penalties. (After doubling for takeout, you cannot convert the meaning of a second double to takeout; it simply shows extra values.) In the context of your pass over one spade, you could hardly be better for diamonds than you actually are. While a call of two diamonds could not be faulted, this feels like a hand worth three diamonds now.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 9 7 6 5
 5 4
 K 10 7 6 5
♣ 9 7
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 1♠
Pass 2♣ Dbl. Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 15th, 2014

The day breaks not; it is my heart.

John Donne


West North
North-South ♠ A 7 4 2
 8 7 6
 A 4 2
♣ A 10 5
West East
♠ K 10 3
 J 10 9 4 2
 J 5
♣ Q 7 4
♠ 9 8
 K Q
 Q 8 7 6 3
♣ J 8 6 2
South
♠ Q J 6 5
 A 5 3
 K 10 9
♣ K 9 3
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Pass
1♠ Pass 2♠ Pass
4♠ All pass    

J

High cards have their place, but often the fate of a contract hinges on the intermediates. Today's deal is just one such example.

The deal dates from a bygone era when South had no sophisticated maneuver available to him to consult with his partner on what game would be best. Had I held those cards, I would have tried three no-trump at my second turn to suggest this pattern, and let partner pass if he had produced a three-card raise or if he had an absolutely square hand like this. But then there would have been no story!

Today the contract of four spades was a deeply unattractive one, though the possession of the spade 10 might have given declarer some hopes of success. As it was, though, South needed to assume a highly favorable distribution in the side suits for repeated throw-ins.

He won the opening lead and extracted East’s trumps in two rounds. Then South crossed his fingers for the first time and threw East in with a heart for a minor-suit return.

East made the natural shift to a low diamond, letting South cash three tricks in that suit. West ruffed in and cashed his heart winner, but then had either to give a ruff-sluff or concede three tricks in clubs, whether he led high or low. Declarer knew the club honors were split since East would have exited in clubs at trick five if he had started with only small cards in the suit.


It is important when deciding whether to act with a marginal hand over a pre-empt to make your decision quickly or you may cause your partner ethical problems — as well as giving away information to the opponents. Here your heart length should be the deciding factor in going low. Let your partner balance with heart shortage.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 7 4 2
 8 7 6
 A 4 2
♣ A 10 5
South West North East
2
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.

Chinese proverb


South North
Neither ♠  A 6 5
 Q 6
 K 10 5
♣ A J 10 5 3
West East
♠ Q 10 3
 A 7 4 3 2
 9 8 6
♣ 8 7
♠ 9 8 7 4
 K 10 8 5
 J 3
♣ 9 6 2
South
♠ K J 2
 J 9
 A Q 7 4 2
♣ K Q 4
South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

3

Today we have a defensive problem, and to put yourself properly in the shoes of the defender, cover up the West and South cards and consider as East how you would defend three no-trump after South's strong no-trump is raised to game and West leads a fourth-highest heart three. Dummy plays low, and it is over to you, Plan the whole defense.

Should you play the 10 or the king to the first trick? Consider what declarer would have done with the ace in his hand and the doubleton queen in dummy. He would surely have played dummy’s queen — so he does not have the ace.

Say you make the right play at trick one, the heart king. Declarer produces the heart nine. What next? Here, the right technical card to return is the heart five, leading low from a remaining holding of three cards. However, on this occasion the “right” lead is wrong.

At trick two you have to play back the heart 10, hoping that partner works out to take the second trick and cash out the suit. With that powerful a dummy he should be able to see that his only hope to beat the hand is the actual layout. Motto: rules are all well and good — but remember to break them once in a while!


Though you are in a game-forcing auction, a call of two spades, the fourth suit, retains its original meaning of seeking a spade stopper for no-trump. That is one sensible option here, but it would also be perfectly acceptable to bid three diamonds now. In my preferred style, my partner's rebid promised five diamonds and four hearts and at least a reasonable hand, if not necessarily a full reverse.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠  A 6 5
 Q 6
 K 10 5
♣ A J 10 5 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
2♣ Pass 2 Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Though this may be play to you, 'tis death to us.

Sir Roger L’Estrange


South North
North-South ♠ 8 4
 A Q 8 7
 J 9 7 5 4 3 2
♣ —
West East
♠ Q J 7 6 5 3
 K 6 4 2
 K
♣ 8 7
♠ K 10 9 2
 10 9 5
 Q 10 6
♣ 10 4 3
South
♠ A
 J 3
 A 8
♣ A K Q J 9 6 5 2
South West North East
2♣ 3♠ Pass 5♠
6♣ Pass 6 Pass
7♣ All pass    

♠Q

It may well be better to be lucky than good, and on today's deal one could argue that the team that collected the IMPs had simply been in the right place at the right time to collect a helping hand from Dame Fortune.

The deal came up at a world championship four years ago, when England played the USA. The English pair had done well to reach the small slam, a contract that could only be troubled on the lead of the diamond king, when declarer would fall back on the heart finesse. After a spade lead declarer simply drew trump and played on hearts, secure in the knowledge that he could establish an extra trick from that suit.

At first glance it looks as if the English pair had done well to pre-empt the American auction, forcing them too high, but look at what happened.

Declarer, Sam Lev, won West’s spade lead with the ace and played off all his trumps. His last four cards in hand were his two diamonds and two hearts, while in dummy he had heart A-Q-8 and the diamond jack. West had retained his four hearts to the king, but what should East keep?

If he keeps three hearts and one diamond, as happened at the table, declarer makes the diamond eight as his 13th trick. If East had kept fewer than three hearts, declarer would simply have run the heart jack, making three heart tricks whether that card was covered or not.


This hand is not worth a game-try, and clearly should not end up in no-trump but in a major. The question is therefore whether to repeat the spades or rebid two hearts, and both actions are quite sensible. With such weak heart spots my inclination is to repeat the spades — a 6-1 fit would not be so painful whereas a 4-3 heart fit might be no fun at all.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q J 7 6 5 3
 K 6 4 2
 K
♣ 8 7
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

What would life be without arithmetic, but a scene of horrors?

Rev. Sydney Smith


West North
Neither ♠ K 7 6 4 2
 A
 A 3 2
♣ A Q 7 5
West East
♠ —
 K Q J 10 7 6
 8 5 4
♣ 10 8 6 3
♠ J 10 8 5
 9 4 3
 K 9 7 6
♣ 4 2
South
♠ A Q 9 3
 8 5 2
 Q J 10
♣ K J 9
South West North East
2 Dbl. Pass
4♠ Pass 6♠ All pass

K

As the play unfolded in today's deal, declarer was grateful for the knowledge that West held a six-card heart suit because of his pre-emptive opening bid.

Declaring six spades, South won the heart-king lead in dummy perforce, and it seemed to him that the small slam was cold; in fact 13 tricks would roll in if the diamond king sat with West.

But when declarer continued with a trump to his ace and West showed out, his first thoughts were, that with a natural trump loser, the diamond king needed to sit onside just for him to make his contract. Then further thought brought South to the conclusion that East might be endplayed, so long as he had fewer than four clubs.

Harking back to West’s opening bid, South appreciated that East would hold just three hearts. So he continued by ruffing a heart in dummy, then played the spade king, followed by a spade to his queen. South ruffed his last heart with dummy’s last trump, and now the stage was set.

He led a club to the ace, then a club to the king followed by the club jack. This left East in an unenviable position. If he ruffed, he would be endplayed in diamonds. Accordingly, East elected to discard a diamond, but now South played his last trump, discarding a diamond from dummy, and throwing East in. The forced diamond return saw the slam safely home, as South’s third diamond departed on the club queen.


Despite your lack of real extras and your square shape, what you have is very much in the right place. You expect your trump honors to be pulling their weight and your club honors to be facing three or four cards to one honor and thus useful to your partner. Even your black nines may play a part. So bid four spades.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A Q 9 3
 8 5 2
 Q J 10
♣ K J 9
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1♠ Pass
2♠ Pass 3♣ Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 11th, 2014

It is hard to be defensive toward a danger which you have never imagined existed.

John Christopher


South North
Neither ♠ 9 5 3 2
 6 4 3
 J 10 9 4
♣ A 6
West East
♠ J 8 7 6 4
 K J 9 7 2
 —
♣ J 10 3
♠ Q 10
 10 8 5
 K Q 6
♣ K Q 7 4 2
South
♠ A K
 A Q
 A 8 7 5 3 2
♣ 9 8 5
South West North East
1 2* Pass 2
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

*Both majors

7

After the weekend it often takes a just a little while for the brain to move into full gear. So here is an easy problem with which to start the week.

Your task is to plan the play in three no-trump on the lead of the heart seven.

This problem looks extremely straightforward: You play ace and another diamond, win the return, and run the diamonds. Even if you forget to unblock the diamond spots from dummy, you have plenty of re-entries to your hand in spades.

If you follow that approach, you will bring home your game four times out of five without realizing that you had been guilty of extremely careless play. The exception comes when diamonds split 3-0. If it is East who has the length, you will not avoid two losers unless you start the suit by leading low toward dummy. When the 3-0 break comes to light, you can subsequently cross to the club ace and finesse in diamonds to make your game.

Curiously, if it is West who has the length, you may also avoid a second loser. After all, West might be worried that his partner has the singleton ace — mightn’t he? If he ducks the first diamond, you will own him for the duration — or at least until you do something equally stupid against one of his contracts.

This is a classical safety play, and the good news is that you do not even have to invest a trick to protect yourself.


The opponents have competed to the three-level on limited values. Their best chance of accumulating tricks must be the trump suit, so I would lead the spade jack to try to cut down a crossruff. The alternative would be to lead the diamond nine and settle for taking our top tricks — in case declarer could knock out the heart ace and establish discards.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ J 7
 A 10 4 3
 9 8 3 2
♣ Q J 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1 Dbl. Pass 2♠
3 3♠ All pass  

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Do you like Drury — and if you play this convention, where a two-club response by a passed hand becomes subverted to a raise of partner's major, how do you deal with hands with club suits facing a major-suit opening bid in third seat?

Fire Down Below, Laredo, Texas

I think most right-minded players believe Drury offers some useful protection against partner's light opening bids. I believe one might occasionally open marginal hands with long clubs suits in first and second seat simply to avoid potential rebid problems. But as a passed hand, you can also sensibly use a jump to three clubs to show a maximum pass with a long club suit.

What method would you recommend for responder to check back for a fit when his partner as opener jumps to two no-trump over a one-level major-suit response? Is an artificial bid needed?

Belly Flop, Salinas, Calif.

The Wolff signoff uses three clubs as a way to get out in three of your own suit or in partner's suit. Failing that, one simple way to check back is to play raising partner's minor as natural and forcing, while using the other minor searches for three-card support or four cards in the other major. Finally, transfers can be used here — but though technically best, they require proper agreements to be in place.

What is your view on raising partner or introducing a new suit after partner’s double when in a competitive auction? Does the so-called free raise really show extras? For example, after partner opens one heart and the next hand overcalls two clubs, should one bid two hearts or double with ♠ Q-J-7-2,  10-6-5,  J-9-5, ♣ Q-J-4?

Acting Up, Huntington, W. Va.

There are some sequences where you may elect to pass when you would otherwise have acted, after the opponents have overcalled, or otherwise competed. Here you would have bid had RHO passed, but your bad trumps and minimum hand with defense and no offense make passing just about acceptable. A negative double at the two–level should surely be a little stronger than this.

I was recently confused by a double in a previously undiscussed sequence. I overcalled one spade over one club, holding ♠ K-10-4-3-2,  A-Q-8,  K-9-5, ♣ 8-3, and heard my LHO raise to two clubs, doubled by my partner. What is my correct call now?

Lost in the Shuffle, Utica, N.Y.

Your partner's double of a low-level suit bid and supported by the opposition shows the unbid suits, and values. Rather than rebid spades, I'd try either two diamonds or two hearts now — the latter I think is the most flexible — and see whether partner can produce spade support, or will emphasize a suit of his own.

We need some help in arriving at the right score in an unusual hand, and I have not been able to find the answer elsewhere. My partner and I were vulnerable and bid and made six no-trump, doubled and redoubled. We made our contract and an overtrick. How should this be scored?

Full Value, Olympia, Wash.

You get a bonus of either 500 or 700 for completing the rubber, plus 750 for making a small slam vulnerable, the trick score is 760 – for 190 doubled and redoubled, plus 400 for the redoubled overtrick. Finally, the insult is a further 100, making a grand total of 2510 or 2710.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Love, and a cough, cannot be hid.

George Herbert


West North
Both ♠ 8 7
 10 4 3
 Q 8 3 2
♣ 8 6 3 2
West East
♠ K J 10 9 6 5 3
 9 7
 4
♣ Q 9 7
♠ Q 4 2
 6 5
 J 10 9 5
♣ A J 10 5
South
♠ A
 A K Q J 8 2
 A K 7 6
♣ K 4
South West North East
3♠ Pass Pass
6 All pass    

4

Guessing how to deal with powerhouses like South's in competition is really a lottery. Since you can never expect partner to cooperate, my advice is just guess whether to go high or low and hope to be lucky.

That was what today’s South did, and when North put down his dummy in six hearts, he apologized to his partner for offering him so little. South thanked him gravely and said that like the curate’s egg, parts of it were excellent.

After the lead of the diamond four to the nine and ace, declarer cashed the heart ace, then carefully led the heart eight to dummy’s 10. Now declarer played a club toward his hand. East knew declarer had at least two clubs, so he ducked, as good as anything, and the club king scored. South exited with a club and East overtook his partner’s nine to lead a spade through. Declarer scored his spade ace, crossed to dummy by leading his trump two to the three, then ruffed a club to isolate the menace, and ran his trumps, pitching a spade and diamond from dummy.

To keep the master club, East discarded a diamond, and South took the last three tricks in diamonds to make his slam.

Notice that declarer has to preserve the extra trump entry to dummy in order to ruff out the clubs and isolate the menace with East. If he does not do so, West keeps the club and spade masters and the squeeze fails.


Had the opponents not intervened, you would probably have responded one diamond, but here there is a decent case for raising to two clubs. You want a club lead if your LHO declares a major. You take away a round of bidding from him, and you may help partner compete for the partscore.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 4 2
 6 5
 J 10 9 5
♣ A J 10 5
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Dbl.
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 8th, 2014

The noblest motive is the public good.

Sir Richard Steele


South North
East-West ♠ 9 8
 K 9
 K 10 7 3 2
♣ A J 6 3
West East
♠ 10 7 6 3 2
 8 7 4
 5
♣ 10 9 7 2
♠ K J 5 4
 6 5 3 2
 J 9 8 4
♣ K
South
♠ A Q
 A Q J 10
 A Q 6
♣ Q 8 5 4
South West North East
2 NT Pass 6 NT All pass

♠3

In today's deal the North hand is a particularly difficult one to describe facing a two-no-trump opening, since either minor suit might play much better than no-trump, but as it happens, despite your eight-card fits, you want to play no-trump today. Plan the play in six no-trump after a low spade lead.

Curiously, the hand is a guaranteed make, provided that West has at least one diamond. You win the spade queen, cash the diamond ace, then play a club to dummy’s ace.

Here you are home immediately, but assume nothing dramatic happens. If no king falls, try a diamond back to your queen, again prepared to claim if both opponents follow or if East has only one diamond. When you see West show out on the second diamond, simply lead another club. Should both opponents follow, you have six tricks in the majors and three in each of the minors by setting up clubs. But assume somebody has four clubs. If it is West who started with four clubs, he must duck the second club and now you have a second club trick in the bag. You can concede a diamond to East and set up your 12th trick in that suit. If it is East who started with length in both minors, he must win his club king.

Whatever major suit he exits in, you can run your major winners and guarantee to be able to squeeze him in the minor suits for your 12th trick.


This is a hand where some would argue that the form of scoring and vulnerability might influence you to open or pass. I say bridge is a bidders' game, and when you have points in your long suits and an easy rebid over partner's expected responses, bid first and apologize later. Switch the minors and I would pass, because of the rebid problem.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 9 8
 K 9
 K 10 7 3 2
♣ A J 6 3
South West North East
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Marcus Aurelius


South North
Neither ♠ A 8 6 3
 10 9 5 3
 A 9 3
♣ A 8
West East
♠ K Q J 10 4
 7
 Q 10 7
♣ Q 10 7 4
♠ 9 5 2
 J 8 2
 J 5 4 2
♣ J 5 2
South
♠ 7
 A K Q 6 4
 K 8 6
♣ K 9 6 3
South West North East
1 1♠ 2♠ Pass
3♠ Pass 5 Pass
6 All pass    

♠K

A loser-on-loser play was the way home for declarer on this well-bid small slam.

After North had cue-bid to show a limit raise or better, South’s three-spade call was an unequivocal slam-try with short spades. North appreciated that his spade length and three aces were going to be very useful to his partner. His jump to five hearts asked for good trumps, and South was happy to accept the invitation.

The spade king was West’s opening salvo. Declarer inspected dummy and appreciated that if trumps broke 2-2, there would be no further problems, as two clubs could be ruffed in dummy. The only loser would be the third round of diamonds.

After winning the first trick with the spade ace, South drew two rounds of trump and was disappointed to find West showing out on the second. The club ace and king stood up, then a third club was safely ruffed in dummy. The diamond ace, then a diamond to the king placed South back in hand to play the last club.

If West had shown out, the club could safely have been ruffed in dummy; then a spade ruff to hand would have allowed East’s last trump to be extracted. But when West produced the club queen, rather than ruff and be overruffed, South discarded dummy’s last diamond, exchanging one loser for another.

Ruffing the spade return, declarer trumped the last diamond, returned to hand with a spade ruff, and drew the last trump at trick 13.


With the expected number of hearts and more defense than might be expected in terms of aces, you should not consider bidding on just because you have fewer diamonds than your partner might expect. Simply pass and do your best to go plus.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 8 6 3
 10 9 5 3
 A 9 3
♣ A 8
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 3 Pass Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

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