Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 10th, 2020

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 9th, 2020

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 6th, 2020

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 5th, 2020

I recently opened a no-trump with a 4-3-3-3 16-count and was raised to a three no-trump game. Unfortunately, we each had three low spades, and the defense collected five spade tricks. What should we have done differently?

Straight off the Bat, Corpus Christi, Texas

You shouldn’t wait for a stopper in every suit to open one no-trump, so most pairs would duplicate your auction. Worry about stoppers when the opponents bid or when your side has used fourthsuit-forcing. Then you generally need a stopper in the fourth suit to bid no-trump. Still, with three small cards in each hand, what other game can you play?

I was unsure what to do on this hand from a duplicate. I was in second chair with ♠ K-9-8-5-3,  K-4,  K-J-9-3, ♣ A-Q. My righthand opponent opened one diamond. What call would you make now?

No Style, Winston-Salem, N.C.

I would overcall one spade. Doubling would make the rest of the auction too hard, as bidding spades later would overstate my strength. This shape is not ideal for one no-trump, even though I am in the correct high-card range. If the hand is a partscore deal, I almost certainly want to get spades into the game. I can act again later to show extra strength.

My partner has proposed that we play a “double negative” response of two hearts to a strong two-club opening, to show 0-3 points. Would you recommend this method?

Pessimistic Pam, White Plains, N.Y.

It sometimes works well to limit one’s hand early in the auction, but here, that is at the expense of more of opener’s precious space. I prefer to keep as much space as possible by responding two diamonds with a wide variety of hands. The principle is to sort out the pattern and strain by bidding suits first. Range can come later, with responder having a second negative at his next turn to speak.

I have agreed to play Exclusion Key-card Blackwood with my regular partner, and we have adopted the same 14-30 responses as we play for regular four no-trump bids. However, we recently had this auction: one heart – one spade – two spades – five hearts. I was the dealer and interpreted this bid as Exclusion Key-card. However, I had no relevant key-cards (can you believe it?) and thus, we had to play a slam missing two aces. Where did we go wrong?

Troubled Ted, Pottsville, Pa.

If forced to play Exclusion Blackwood, use 30-41 responses for this very reason. The “zero” response is too frequent to be the second step. Keep your four no-trump key-card responses as 14-30, though. For what it is worth, Exclusion Blackwood can be very dangerous in suits your side has bid (for more than one reason).

What would you open with this hand: ♠ 4,  A-K-10-9-7-2,  A-Q-J-9-3, ♣ 5? I was playing a teams game at love all, and we missed a slam when I opened one heart and the opponents competed in spades.

Tactical Tim, Dallas, Texas

I would also open one heart, intending to bid lots of diamonds later. Some would try a four-heart opening, aiming to keep the opponents from getting together in spades, but that could easily lead to a foolish contract. The hand is not powerful enough in terms of high cards to open a strong two clubs, and a two-suiter can be very awkward to describe if you have to start at the two-level, even without the opposition competing.


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 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

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

The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.

John Foster Dulles


W North
None ♠ A 7 6 5
 9
 A J 5 3
♣ K 6 5 4
West East
♠ J 4
 A J 7 6 3 2
 2
♣ Q 9 8 7
♠ Q 8 3
 10 8 5 4
 Q 10 9 7
♣ J 10
South
♠ K 10 9 2
 K Q
 K 8 6 4
♣ A 3 2
South West North East
  2 Dbl. 3
4 ♠ All pass    

A

The World Bridge Federation for many years organized junior programs around the world. When they had a camp in Poland, the following deal came from the nightly duplicate event there. Nick Brink, who was on his way to Rio to play for the Dutch Juniors in the World Championships, found an ingenious way to squeeze blood from a stone on the following deal. He needed some co-operation from the defenders, but isn’t that only right and proper?

Nick received the lead of the heart ace and a diamond shift, which he won in hand. If diamonds were not splitting, spades were likely to be 3-2, so he drew two rounds of trumps and cashed the heart king to pitch a club from dummy. Then he played the top clubs and exited with a third club to West as East pitched a heart.

Now, while any card West played would give a ruff-and-discard, his next move was critical. The winning defense is to play a club rather than a heart, so East would be able to pitch a diamond. In fact, West exited with a heart and Nick ruffed, pitching a diamond from dummy. He then got out with his last trump to East. That player had only diamonds left; he had to lead into the tenace in dummy and concede the rest.

As you can see, if West plays a club, declarer can again ruff in hand and lead a trump to East. But that player can exit with his last heart, forcing declarer to ruff in dummy and concede a diamond to East at the end.



Double here is for take-out, even with your hand being so well-defined at your first turn. This looks like a partscore hand, and you must not be silenced so easily, especially when you have spades. If partner has four spades as well, odds are you can make two spades. If not, length in either minor will be almost as good — and incidentally, a call of two no-trump from your partner would ask you to pick a minor.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 10 9 2
 K Q
 K 8 6 4
♣ A 3 2
South West North East
1 NT 2 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 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.

Albert Einstein


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

5

There are some plays that only experts would consider, and some that they would make only against another expert. Consider this example, from a U.S. Nationals at New Orleans.

Brian Glubok as West eschewed the opening lead of a top club, realizing he would never be able to give his partner a club ruff. East, Michael Radin, was implicitly marked with some club length, since he had neither made a negative double nor responded one no-trump. So he tried a low diamond. Peter Nagy, as declarer, cashed the top diamonds and played a low heart from dummy to Glubok’s jack.

Glubok deviously played a low club now — and Nagy called for dummy’s queen! Now declarer could ruff a heart to hand and take a spade finesse for his contract. Had he guessed incorrectly, the defenders would have cashed three clubs and set the hand. So why did he follow this line?

Declarer knew that Radin had raised to two diamonds on minimal values and four-card support, so Glubok had a minimum balanced hand. Since Glubok might have led a heart from an original ace-king-jack combination, Radin appeared to have one top heart, in which case, West had the rest of the deck.

More important, if Glubok had an ace-jack or king-jack combination in clubs, he would have shifted to the jack, protecting against his partner having the club ace, with or without the club 10. With those holdings and the queen in dummy, the play of the jack would virtually never cost a trick.



Open one no-trump. You are just short of the values needed to upgrade your hand out of the strong no-trump range. The five-card suit is a positive feature, but there are too many high cards in the short suits, which will not be pulling their full weight. A no-trump opener gets the strength and shape of the hand across in one go; give me the doubleton diamond king with the ace in hearts, and I might feel differently.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A Q 6
 Q 10 9 7 5
 A K
♣ Q 6 4
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 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Until you understand a writer’s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge


W North
None ♠ K 10 2
 10 4
 A Q 6 5 4
♣ 9 4 3
West East
♠ J 8 7 4
 5 2
 10 8 3
♣ A 8 7 5
♠ —
 A K Q J 8 7
 J 9 2
♣ J 10 6 2
South
♠ A Q 9 6 5 3
 9 6 3
 K 7
♣ K Q
South West North East
  Pass Pass 3
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass
       

5

Against four spades, the heart five was led to East’s jack, South correctly following with the three. This left open the possibility that West had led from a four- or three-card holding, since East-West were playing third-and-fifth leads in partnership suits.

With dummy’s long suit menacing, East shifted immediately to the club jack. South covered with the king, the card he was known to hold from East’s perspective, after West’s failure to lead a top club. West won his ace and reverted to hearts.

East now knew West had a doubleton heart, but what would be the purpose of continuing the suit? The defenders’ best chance might have been to cash a second club trick, but East saw that if West had held the club queen, he would have taken it before playing a second heart.

At any rate, with the bad spade split, there was a good chance the setting trick would come from the trump suit, as long as declarer could not pick it up. So East forced dummy with a third heart. If West had had queen-fourth of spades, this would have beaten the game legitimately, but even here it made declarer’s task next to impossible.

To bring home his game, South would have needed to take a first-round finesse of the spade 10, but he cashed the spade king and went down. He would have had a similar problem if West had been dealt queen-third in spades. Of course, after a club continuation at trick three, declarer would have cashed the spade ace, revealing the 4-0 split.



Bid two clubs. With an honor in partner’s second suit and a ruffing value in hearts, which is likely to be partner’s fragment (he is probably close to 4=3=1=5 pattern), you can see clubs will play well opposite even a four-card suit. If partner has any extras, game may be in the picture. You do not quite have enough for a call of three clubs, but with the club jack instead of the three, I might make that call.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 10 2
 10 4
 A Q 6 5 4
♣ 9 4 3
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

Trust everybody, but cut the cards.

Finley Peter Dunne


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

♠Q

On today’s deal, an intermediate jump overcall propelled North-South to a pushy game, when a more normal one-level bid might have seen them subside in part-score.

East’s jump overcall systematically suggested 8-12. South doubled, then upgraded his spade stopper and quick tricks in the side suits to take a shot at three no-trump. East let the spade queen lead run around to declarer, who took his king, since it would have been unwise to duck with the hearts exposed. Declarer next cashed the diamond king, under which East dropped a tricky queen! The 10, if read as a true card, might have persuaded declarer to guess the suit. This way, East thought that declarer was likely to finesse the diamond nine on the second round if he had a doubleton diamond.

Instead of taking East’s card at face value and immediately finessing the diamond nine, South next played three rounds of clubs, ending in hand, with East pitching a heart on the third. Declarer then played a diamond to the ace and scored up his vulnerable game.

Why did he do this? He knew East had six spades and two clubs, leaving five red-suit cards. Many players would have hesitated to pre-empt in spades with a fair four-card heart suit instead of making a simple overcall. So, declarer deduced East’s 6=3=2=2 shape.

Incidentally, East might have considered putting up the spade ace at trick one, then shifting to the heart nine, playing his partner for king-jack-eight-low.



Bid three spades, a natural and invitational call, showing a good suit. The hand is not worth forcing to game, and a spade contract could easily be superior to no-trump. Your weak spade spots might give you cause for concern, but partner can always bid three no-trump if he has tricks on the side and short spades.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A J 9 6 3 2
 A 9 2
 Q 10
♣ 7 6
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ 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 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

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