Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Necessity gives the law without itself acknowledging one.

Publilius Syrus

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


South is grateful to receive a diamond lead against four hearts since it prevents the defenders from having a chance to cash two spade winners. Even so, after a trump shift at trick two South can afford to lose only one trick in total from hearts and clubs.

South draws two rounds of trump with the king and queen, finds the bad break, and must now focus on handling clubs without loss. He takes the diamond queen discarding a spade, then cashes the club king and ace, but must not then lead out the club queen. If he does, West will ruff high, cash the spade ace and return a trump, leaving declarer with a club loser.

South gains nothing by leading the high club even if clubs are three-three. Better is to try to ruff the third round of clubs with dummy’s remaining trump. He would then plan to return to his hand by ruffing a diamond, would cash the ace of trumps, and lead good clubs until West takes his trump trick.

As it happens, West ruffs the third club high and does best to lead a low spade through dummy’s king.

Under ordinary circumstances, South would try to guess where the spade ace and queen were. But here if East can gain the lead with a spade, he will lead another club, and West will ruff in again, for the setting trick. East cannot be shut out if he has the spade ace, so South puts up dummy’s king – just in case – and scores an unexpected overtrick.

An unusual sequence no doubt, and one that can be played in two ways. My preference is to use this as simply a choice of slams, by a hand without a four-card major. Here your hand looks extremely suitable for play in diamonds, so I would bid six diamonds. If partner was interested only in clubs as opposed to no-trump, he can revert to six no-trump.


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

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Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2017 at 11:39 am

Hi Bobby,

Presumably the other approach on BWTA is that 5NT asks partner to bid 6NT or 7NT but it does seem a slightly blunt instrument. I’d be interested to know if either yourself or any contributors have ever encountered this sequence and roughly how often. In 16 or 17 years of duplicate (take out the 25 year gap) I don’t recall it ever happening, although I do recall playing social rubber bridge with a partner with a twisted sense of humor and a sequence which went 1H (from him) – 2D – 6C – 7N (14 top tricks).



Bobby WolffFebruary 23rd, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Hi Iain,

A long bridge career begets a variety of unusual situations which extend experiences and above all, educate.

An unusually extra long bridge life will almost guarantee every form of bidding and playing events which, if nothing else, will tend to make for better understanding of not only when and how, but, most importantly, why.

Yes, the 1NT, (direct) 5NT asking for 4 card suits up the line has occurred more than several times during the past 70 years for me and, at least to my judgment is quite rational, therefore useful.

Let’s consider the following hand as responder, while playing a standard strong 1NT opening of 15-17: and having one’s partner open 1NT:
s. Axx, h. KJ, d. A10xx, c. AQxx,

A simple 5NT from me while playing IMPs or rubber bridge would be my response, asking for 4 card (or longer) suits up the line, intending to pass 6 of a minor, but convert 6 of a major to 6NT. However if the NTer held: s. KQx, h. AQxx, d. xxxx, c. KJ, I would prefer him to bypass diamonds as a 4 card suit and chose 5 hearts instead. However, and no doubt, if responder held s. xxx, h. KJx, d. AKQJ, c. Axx 6 diamonds instead of 6NT would be most appealing (with a normal 3-2 diamond break), but alas such is, at least, IMO, the nature of our game and not to be expected, hence not to be catered.

Surely the above hand is contrived but (on rare occasions), and no doubt, 6 diamonds could be the best contract:

Sure, somewhere between 11 or 13 tricks may be the end result but likely IMO 12 will be the normal result in about 75% of the cases, allowing for good play and defense and relatively normal breaks.

Please keep in mind that bridge is NOT an exact science, nor will it ever be, but that, at least to my taste, adds to its luster, doesn’t subtract and in the long run serves to be the greatest mind game (psychology always involved, especially at the higher levels) ever created.

Finally Iain, since the above has never happened to you, the law of averages might just be getting ready to even the score, making it prudent of you to learn something new.

At the very least, it will provide pub conversation after tournaments to which I may guess that you are likely to usually be the master of ceremonies.

Good luck!

jim2February 23rd, 2017 at 6:41 pm

3N is an interesting contract!

Say, North bids 3N over 2C and ends the bidding.

East would likely lead a diamond, so:

– KD
– 3 rounds of clubs, oops
– 4 rounds of hearts, West winning 4th
– 2 diamonds ducked

When West shifts to spade, declarer must play the KS for the same reason, and now scores 1S, 4H, 1D,3C

Bobby WolffFebruary 23rd, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Hi Jim2,

One flaw. East can overtake the ten of diamonds (East playing nine, jack, ten) cash his club trick and then lead a spade back to East’s ace for 5 tricks (one spade, one club, one heart and two diamonds).

However declarer can give up a 4th club immediately and then risk a diamond blockage (which works) and the ace of spades being with West, which, in addition, requires clairvoyance of the four-one heart break. IOW, either a peak at the table or a glimpse of the hand records beforehand.

Perhaps West can falsecard the 10 of diamonds at trick one (instead of the 9) misleading the declarer on the potential diamond block to come. This falsecarding subject has only been slightly explored (even at the highest level) for good reason, since situations in which it logically misleads the declarer without conflicting the defense are rare, but nevertheless valuable to discuss or merely keep in mind, if only for adding an additional arrow to the defensive quiver.

Thanks again for what you always add to bridge discussions.

Bobby WolffFebruary 23rd, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Hi again Jim2,

Taking my own advice of considering ways of misleading declarer, suppose the 3rd seat defender, while defending 3NT holds AJ109 of a suit partner has led suggesting four card length, but perhaps five, declarer being prepared (inferred by the bidding) for that suit. The first play may be the ten instead of third hand high. It loses to the king and then, (a trick or two later) 3rd seat regains the lead in another suit. Perhaps the jack should now be led, followed by the nine playing declarer for KQxx and trying to block a suit he always was entitled to two tricks in, instead of just the one he will get.

Teeth might clench, tempers may be at the ready, but above all, brilliance will be shown.

Of course, such a ruse never occurred to me, but if it had, that defender would probably have been Benito Garozzo. Not much to lose for that declarer to duck, holding both the king and the queen, except, of course, this specific holding.

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