Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 11th, 2015

There are two sides to every question.


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


This is the last board this week from a past Yeh Bros Cup event. Reaching slam is not so hard; making it is another matter, but here are the lines chosen by a couple of successful declarers.

Bauke Muller of the Netherlands played six spades on the lead of the club four (third from an even number, low from an odd number). He won and drew trump, ending in hand, then took a diamond finesse. When the defenders continued the attack on clubs, West let go the club two – confirming an original four-card suit. Now declarer played three rounds of hearts, ruffing the third, then ruffed a club. In the three-card ending he knew East had begun with precisely three spades, two hearts and four clubs so it was marked to finesse against the diamond 10. Had West tried to conceal the club distribution, the count might have been far harder to confirm.

Paul Hackett of England also played slam here, from the North seat, on a trump lead. He won in hand and went to the club ace to take a losing diamond finesse. Back came a trump (yes, a club makes declarer’s task harder) so Hackett won and played three rounds of hearts ruffing in dummy. Then he played the last trump and took the diamond jack, and led a diamond to the ace. Now the last trump executed a double squeeze: with East guarding diamonds and West guarding hearts, neither player could keep the clubs; so trick 13 was scored by the club eight.

You showed a poor hand at your first turn and a really bad one at your second turn. But your partner is still interested in game, so he must have at least a 20-count or the equivalent. I’d raise him to game, albeit without a great deal of confidence, assuming I really trusted him. I certainly wouldn’t redouble!


♠ 10 6
 J 7 6 5 4
 7 6
♣ J 7 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass

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David WarheitApril 25th, 2015 at 12:25 pm

How about: S wins the CA & plays HAK & H ruff, then D to Q. E wins & returns a C. S wins, crosses to DA, ruffs dummy’s last H, draws trump and claims?

bobby wolffApril 25th, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Hi David,

Ah yes, give me the simple life.

However, when faced with this hand, most good declarers will prefer one of the two column lines since attacking hearts first will be dependent on which hand has the short hearts and if East has 4+, the trump spots do not measure up for success.

Also the ten of diamonds may always be tumbling down, along with the diamond king being extremely well placed, favoring the column lines.

Everything considered, the hearts needing to be very favorable, as they were in this real hand, no doubt, made these declarers choose the lines they took.

However, on reflection, how would you estimate the choice of plays?

Iain ClimieApril 25th, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Hi Bobby,

West’s carding against Muller is a painful reminder of the old adage “Signal to partner not declarer”.

On BWTA, however, partner has failed to raise hearts directly, so presumably only has 3. Would youu be more or less inclined to bid 4H on this hand compared to partner raising directly to 3H? What (if anything) can be read into the opposing failure to bid, including not doubling 2D?



David WarheitApril 25th, 2015 at 9:05 pm

I will try to answer your question. First of all, all lines essentially depend on S being 3-2; therefore, all declarers have 4S, 2H, 2D, 2C & 1 ruff, so only need one more trick. Muller’s line works if W has any of the following D holdings: K, Kx, K10x, Kxxx, 10x, Kxxxx, xxx, 10 or x singleton (surely he would lead at trick 1),, maybe 10xx, and maybe xx (as seen in the actual hand). All of this adds up to about 40%, plus someone may have H QJx . So total is a little over 40%.

Hackett’s line mostly depends on the same lie of D, except it probably loses when W has singleton 10, but always wins when W has xxx, and wins when the squeeze is on, which requires E to hold D & W to hold H, and like Muller’s line, works if someone has H QJx. So it is somewhat better than Muller’s line.

My suggested line works if E has 3 H & S either guesses S or the defense doesn’t make him guess, or E has 2H and not both SJ & 10 or E has 4H & both Sj & S10. If none of that works then W would have to have D singleton K, K10, or possible Kx. The H-S situation seems to have about the same chance as Hackett’s line, but the added chance of favorable lie of D, I believe, makes my line the best.

bobby wolffApril 25th, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Hi Iain,

It is doubtful that either East nor West was signalling each other in clubs, although, no doubt West was following their choice of opening leads, third from even, low from odd.

It is certainly true that at reasonably high world levels and defending against slams, most good pairs will vary their signals in an attempt to not tip off declarer. However, only on opening lead is that sometimes not true, but on this hand his choice served to help do in the defense.

The logic behind the above theory is that on balance, defending against slams is usually one of the easier tasks in high level bridge since, after the opening lead, both defenders, especially after the first trick or two is seen, become pretty well informed as to what declarer is going to do, and as the play then unfolds, it is folly for any declarer to believe what either the opponents discards or their tempo in making them, has to do with what they hold. In other words, the dye is usually cast and all three active players become aware of their usually restricted choices of play and defense.

Regarding the BWTA, the doubler’s second bid, a cue bid showing great strength, usually and with a good fit (4+) with the responder’s suit (here, hearts) and then when his partner signs off, saying nothing extra and perhaps with only 4 of them, still raises, the two jacks plus, even more importantly the fifth heart is just enough to accept the invitation and bid game.

If the TO doubler would instead of cue bidding 2 diamonds, merely jumped to 3 hearts, I, although it is close, would decline and now pass, basically saying that partner’s actual bidding showed an extra something over a mere immediate jump.

Just a case of valuation and true the TO doubler could have something like: s. AQx, h. AKx, d. x, c. AKxxxx and then of course, prefer cue bidding and then just taking a chance when raising to 3 hearts over partner’s weak response that partner likes at least something about his hand, with his prayers being answered by his holding the crucial 5th trump (and having them break 3-2, if in fact they do).

Bobby WolffApril 25th, 2015 at 10:25 pm

Hi David,

At least to me, first, thank you, for your prompt and from what I gleaned, thorough follow up on the valuations of the three different lines of play in 6 spades.

While even attempting to arithmetically figure out exactly which line may be best is above and beyond what most human beings, even great players, try to do, I will only suggest why I think, the other two took the two lines they did.

Hackett’s line was somewhat forced on him by the trump lead, making him virtually sure the trumps were breaking, but Muller’s line didn’t risk a bad heart break and basically left him in a position to be able to guess the final diamond position for the contract, if, in fact, it became guessable.

I share his psychology, although I fully admit I have no idea if that strategy has worked over a lifetime of bridge. Perhaps it is over confidence of guessing end situations (and there are usually many clues which help including the tempo of the defense), but, of course, the better the defenders the harder it will be to tell.

Nothing really important to be learned here, only the reality of postponing to the last possible moment the zero hour of (like thrilling golf finishes) putting for the win.