Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Hairbreadth missings of happiness look like the insults of fortune.

Henry Fielding

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

*short clubs, agreeing spades


Strong three-suited hands are always hard to bid. South opens two clubs, since he doesn’t want to risk being passed out by a weak hand long in either hearts or clubs.

North temporizes with a two diamond response, then jumps to four clubs as a splinter in support of spades. North’s strong bidding should encourage South to bid a slam. Indeed, South should really consider a grand slam, since North needs very little more than he actually holds for seven spades to be an easy contract. However, his partner’s diamond cuebid isn’t the most helpful news and, after two further signoffs from North, South contents himself with the small slam.

That is certainly a good decision today, since with this particular combination of cards in the defenders’ hands, 12 tricks is more than sufficiently hard a target. In playing six spades, South should count winners rather than losers. This is the correct procedure whenever you expect to do some ruffing in both hands.

Best is to win the diamond ace at trick one pitching a club, then take the club ace and ruff a club, followed by the heart ace and a club ruff low.

The danger of the second club ruff failing to an over-ruff cannot be avoided, but the chance of a 6-2 club break is not that significant. When the club ruff stands up, lead a heart to the king, ruff a heart high, then a diamond high, and take a heart ruff with the spade seven. East can over-ruff, but declarer’s remaining trumps are high.

Opinions vary on what is acceptable for a pre-emptive opener, and what is not. You’d like a good suit for a two-level preempt in first or second seat, but you may relax the restrictions if the vulnerability is favorable. When you have a good suit, should a side four-card major stand in your way? It is up to you, but while I might pass in second seat or at unfavorable vulnerability, in first seat, I’d act here.


♠ Q 7 6 2
 5 2
 A J 10 8 7 4
♣ 6
South West North East

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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


David WarheitJuly 22nd, 2017 at 9:12 am

How about: DA pitching a H, CA, ruff a C, HA, ruff a C, HK, ruff a C high, ruff a D & ruff a H (overruffed, but S has the rest)? Seems as good a line as the one you suggest.

bobby wolffJuly 22nd, 2017 at 11:41 am

Hi David,

Yes, your line, while slightly different (throwing a heart away from hand, a six card combined holding, rather a club from a five card one) appears to be the only material difference, and though my feeling is that the club discard is more of a safeguard than risking two suits with a slam threatening early overruff and trump return, in actuality that thought might only apply at matchpoints and the slight extra chance that with a favorable heart lie might allow an extra trick assuming fairly normal breaks (and these defensive hands barely qualify for such).

However, since such petty stuff was far away from this hand’s theme, but rather the concentration of just making the bid was paramount, I will have to unconditionally agree with your worthwhile premise of your suggestion as being as good.

What makes your critique so helpful (as it usually does) may cause our best and brightest younger players (apparently to my naked eye, not too many left, at least in the good old USA) to do their own analysis, hopefully arriving at the same conclusion, but then forever being blessed with the intense practice of timing a basic cross ruff (complete with safety first, earlier high ruffs) as part of the necessary process.

Still going further, anyone or perhaps I should say everyone, who carefully replays this hand will be better placed to attack a similar one later, and as we both know, they do come up, some with high enough interior trump spot cards, but some with not, where more luck will be needed to succeed.

Finally, IMO this hand embodies a complex feature of cross ruffing, the timing of when it becomes necessary and not costly to ruff high, safeguarding the contract rather than taking the easier path of just hoping for good breaks.

Yes, it does require sophisticated bridge reasoning, a commodity not grown on trees, but one which, with time, is not beyond most bridge players capabilities, especially ones like you, who love our game with a passion and have great talent and patience, (if you will excuse my expression) to deal with it.

Patrick CheuJuly 22nd, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Hi Bobby,Wonder what the correct bidding sequence should be on this hand..North KT72 KQ2 7 AKJ42 South Q963 753 QJ8 Q73?Pairs All nv Dealer E. Ours(Acol) went p p p 1C,p 1S p 3S pass out.3S=16-18..question being should North have bid more than 3S? South went -2 on a club lead and had to eat humble pie..West AJ54 JT4 A9643 6 and East 8 A986 KT52 T985.Should South have played a low spade to the ten if he had won the club lead in hand? Most scores were minuses in all spade denominations.regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJuly 22nd, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Hi Patrick,

No doubt South should pass 3 spades, but whether North should have jumped to 4 diamonds (spade raise to game but diamond shortness) is subject to disagreement.

Whichever bid North chooses should not be criticized nor even questioned, since the North hand at least IMO is on the cusp. In truth, at least according to me, the player choosing should only be consistent in his judgment with much leeway given to state of the match, or in pairs to at least thinking needing a good board (bid em up) or even the defenders reputations as good or not so.

Everything being equal it is better to be in a hand which leads low to a major honor rather than low to the 10 when the chances for a singleton jack become somewhat discarded.

And since the opening lead is a club, it could well be a singleton (clubs were the opening suit bid) which shows more room in hand for longer trumps and also the ace of same, in order to attempt to get partner in in another suit for a later ruff.

Of course, all that above advice is only slightly percentage and not worth fretting about, unless of course eating humble pie is not part of one’s DNA.

The only good advice is the following two fold
suggestion, “Always guess the right way to play the hand, but if not, stay quiet and be only thought a fool.

Finally North should have passed this hand out and be rewarded with a good board. BTW, West did well not to open the bidding in 3rd chair.

ClarksburgJuly 22nd, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Hello Bobby and Patrick

Bobby: that South hand is rather ugly (Flat, 7 Quacky HCP, and one nine). I think I already know your answer, but will ask anyway: would you consider, even for a moment, passing over North’s 1C?

Patrick, did any of the EW Pairs in your game get to the making three or four Diamond contracts? Or did the NS’s two or three spade contracts keep them all out?

bobby wolffJuly 22nd, 2017 at 11:24 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

In spite of those quacky points, it needs to quack at least once. There is very little baum in passing partner’s minor while holding 5 or 6 hcps+ since partner could be just short of a forcing opening bid.

Patrick CheuJuly 23rd, 2017 at 6:58 am

Hi Clarksburg,No EW pairs played in diamonds,all in spades partscores and some in 4S apart from one in 2C..I would have opened 1D with the West hand..if that’s what you are alluding to..regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuJuly 23rd, 2017 at 7:17 am

Hi Bobby,’Finally North should have passed this hand out..’,you mean after 1C-1S?I am going to call for the ‘Taxi’ or ‘Cab’..:)

bobby wolffJuly 23rd, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Hi Patrick,

When bad breaks appear it is nearly always better to have passed those hands out. The secret is to know which hands will have bad breaks, and that secret will remain one since to learn it has been priced out of sight.

Do not worry since bridge heaven will always leave everyone in better shape than when they arrive. No cabs necessary, only contracts which make.