Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 12th, 2016

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first.

Blaise Pascal

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

*Forcing club raise


While three no-trump is the comfortable game contract here, both tables in a team game played in clubs after an invertedminor response. One pair overbid to slam, and with the spade and diamond finesses both losing, declarer could not avoid going two down when he played to make his contract.

He was hoping that declarer in the other room might similarly overreach. However, on the auction shown in the diagram South was favored with a heart lead against five clubs, rather than the more challenging spade lead, and found himself in with a fighting chance. He won the lead in hand with the king and played the club ace-king. Now after cashing the heart queen and heart ace, he led an innocent low diamond from hand, planning to run it if this were not covered.

However when West put in the eight, declarer tried the queen, and East won his king to play back a low diamond to the 10, jack and ace. Now came the diamond seven, and this time East was forced to cover with the nine, and declarer discarded a spade from hand.

East was now on play, and whether he returned a spade into the tenace or exited with a diamond or heart for the ruff-sluff, declarer would have the rest. Declarer’s line of play virtually ensured the contract unless the diamond spot-cards were extremely unfavorably located from his perspective. And at the very worst South could always have fallen back on the spade finesse.

When you hold a balanced 18-count with a stopper in the opponents’ suit, overcalling one no-trump is always an option. Doubling is possible too, and that might be appropriate if either your hand has been improved by the suit opened to your right or your stopper looks delicate. But here the simple no-trump overcall looks right. You are at the top of the range, I agree, but that is still legal in 35 states.


♠ A Q 8
 Q J 4
 A Q 7
♣ K 9 6 4
South West North East
    Pass 1

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David WarheitNovember 26th, 2016 at 9:14 am

How do you think the bidding should go after S opens 1C, presumably to arrive at 3NT by N? It seems to me if there ever was a crappy 18 HCP hand, N has it.

Iain ClimieNovember 26th, 2016 at 10:25 am

HI David, Bobby,

If 1C 2C is GF, then presumably North can bid 2N over 2H. South now bids 3N (presumably mimimum) and, even if North tries a hopeful 4N, South will still pass. It is a lot easier playing 12-14 NT at least in this case.


Iain Climie

Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Hi David & Iain,

While conventions like inverted minors, have great appeal, certainly to the high-level bridge cadre, while excellent for exploring strains and stopped suits, sometimes cause misfortunes in not being able to declare values early in order to not to overestimate level.

Another slight disadvantage (arguable) is most times allowing those listening opponents to almost always find the right defense, including the most challenging opening lead.

While David’s admonition pertained to the 3-3-3-4 nature of those 18 points, but opposite a distributional hand those controls held by North could, on other occasions be just what South may have ordered, s. Kx, h. Ax, Kxxx, c. QJxxx or s. Kxx, h. A, d. Kxx, c. Q10xxxx, or even s. xxx, h. AK, d. Kx c. Q109xxx (better played from North, especially 6NT).

Of course, because of its many nuances, no doubt and IMO the overall best bidding system has yet to be discovered (at least to me, not close) and will not be until the world’s school systems see fit to include it and its numerical logic to have the time to seek the higher ground analyzed, experimented with and then adopted.