Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Every exit is an entry somewhere else.

Tom Stoppard

S North
None ♠ K J 10
 Q 4
 A K J
♣ K Q 9 8 6
West East
♠ 9 8 7 6
 K J 8 2
 7 5 4 2
♣ 10
♠ Q 4 2
 10 7 6 5
 Q 6 3
♣ J 7 2
♠ A 5 3
 A 9 3
 10 9 8
♣ A 5 4 3
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 * Pass
4 ♣ Pass 4 NT Pass
5 ♠ Pass 6 ♣ All pass

*Artificial slam-try in clubs


In today’s bidding North produced a subtle conventional agreement after South limited his hand with a non-forcing two no-trump call. North bid the other minor as a conventional slam-try, after which South’s modest hand suddenly became extremely suitable for slam. In this sequence North could have signed off over two no-trump in three of the agreed minor, or bid a major to show shortness.

Against six clubs West led the spade nine, and the jack was covered by the queen and ace. That was good news for declarer, who now had to focus on the small concern of 4-0 trumps, and the question of how to hold the red-suit losers to one.

Eventually declarer gave up on worrying about 4-0 trump, since he wanted to preserve entries to his hand. He played off the king and queen of trump, then came to hand with the ace. Next he tried a low heart towards the queen. The idea was that if East won with the king there would still be time to try the diamond finesse.

However, it was West who produced the king and he returned a heart. Now, with no other entry to hand, South was reduced to overtaking the heart queen and finessing unsuccessfully in diamonds.

South was right to try the hearts before the diamonds but what he missed was that he must attack hearts at trick two. Then, if the heart king is onside, he can unblock the heart queen and come to hand with the trump ace to arrange his discard in the fullness of time.

With a balanced 18-20 count, the best way to describe your hand is to double first then bid two no-trump. The absence of a heart stopper is a little worrying, particularly since partner did not bid the suit; but they haven’t led the suit yet – and who knows, dummy may produce an honor there, if necessary?


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

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2017 at 9:43 pm

H Bobby,

One interesting point today is that East’s seemingly pointless cover of the SJ took out an important entry. Yet if declarer had risen with the SK at T1, you know what would have found West being clever with SQ987(x) on lead. Good use of the 3D bid in the sequence though, so many thanks for pointing that out.



bobby wolffMay 11th, 2017 at 5:35 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, my old age experience suggests to me that back many years, perhaps 65+, there were just as high (or perhaps even higher) a percentage of tournament players, (or ones who took rubber bridge seriously, especially for monetary stakes) who would play this slam correctly by including both of the red suit finesses in their effort to succeed.

However, back in that day there were few, if any, artificial bids available (such as 3 diamonds) alerting enough slam interest so that a minimum opener would appreciate his three aces enough to not discourage slam (witness his 2NT bid, rather than 3 clubs, which perhaps was slightly forward going, over an inverted minor response)

Yes, high level bridge bidding has definitely risen significantly in technique (as well as legal signalling on defense, while declarer play and general defense have merely held their own, at least among the better players who competed fiercely.

However, the above is merely my current opinion, while others who played back then, may feel differently.