Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Thinking to me is the greatest fatigue in the world.

Sir John Vanbrugh

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


When Norway took on Indonesia in the quarterfinals of the Bermuda Bowl in 2001, the Indonesians tended to go for the more direct route, while the Norwegians followed a more cerebral approach. But that was not always the case.

On this deal, the Indonesians had discovered their four-four heart fit, and played game there, a contract that went two down on the diamond ruff. By contrast, Erik Saelensminde located the heart suit opposite, but then deliberately eschewed the 4-4 heart fit.

Given that his partner’s ruffing value in spades could not be exploited at no-trump South certainly emerged smelling of roses. To be fair, it is hard to see how to offer a choice of hearts or no-trump sensibly on this deal; still, I think declarer is due a lot of credit here.

Of course it is one thing to bid the game, another to make it. Three no-trump, on a club lead to the 10 and queen, was by no means cold. Saelensminde won in hand and knocked out the heart ace; now West shifted to a diamond.

That let East win and lead a spade through, but Saelensminde put up the ace and cashed all his club and heart winners, ending in dummy, then exited with the fourth club to force West to lead spades into the tenace. Nicely done!

On a club continuation at trick three, there would also have been a lot of play left in the board. But if declarer plays for diamonds 4-1 and ducks a diamond early, he can always succeed.

It feels wrong to rebid one no-trump with a side suit singleton. You can bid two clubs, expecting to find a fit or that partner will act again with extras. Since there do not appear to be too many spades in the deck, you would not be surprised to hear your partner rebid spades to show a really good hand. If he does, you will rebid two no-trump.


♠ 9
 K 9 6 4
 7 5 4 2
♣ K 8 6 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 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


Mircea1October 31st, 2017 at 7:21 pm

Hi Bobby,

The negative double by North worked well on today’s deal, but is his hand strong enough to afford it?

On an unrelated matter, is there a standard procedure for dealing with interference over responses to Stayman? I’ve had a situation recently where my partner opened 1NT (strong), I bid 2C, she responded 2D and my RHO doubled (for lead). I didn’t know what to do. I don’t remember seeing anything on this subject in the books I had read.

TedOctober 31st, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Hi Bobby,

Am hoping you or the group can suggest what to do here.

Playing in a Sectional this weekend, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. In 6 Spades the opening lead was the Spade Ace and out a Spade. Spades broke 2-2 there was no opposing bidding and 5 rounds of trump suggest the opponents’ hands are balanced. With the lead in your hand, what’s the best way to continue?

S. –
H. Ax
D. AKJ10
C. xx

S. xx
H. Kx
D. xx
C. Ax


bobbywolffOctober 31st, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, at least IMO, the subject hand is well within strength to make some noise.

Reason being is that the singleton is in the right suit, with both of the other two unbids included, as well as support for partner in case the opener merely rebids his opening suit.

Those above assets mentioned would make a negative dbl my choice, even if one of those kings was a queen. While I won’t say for sure if both of the kings were queens, but, all I can suggest is that I might even choose it then.

Negative doubles are mostly offensively positive, making the possible fits crucial.

Regarding your second interesting question, common bridge logic should rule, meaning I would simply bid a 4 card major (if I had one) or 2 hearts if I possessed both, redouble if I had 5 decent diamonds (AJ9xx+) or 4 very good ones (AQJ9), but no 4 card major. 2NT with 2 diamonds stops (KJx or better), and a maximum or near, 1NT. Finally if I had a non-descript 1NT opening, minimum 1NT and pass with no more than 0 or 1 diamond stop and, of course, no 4 card major.

The above is not to be memorized, but rather just to be absorbed, since no matter what others may suggest, bridge logic always applies regardless how often it appears, which will be more often than expected.

Good luck, with the above paragraph more important than the one, preceding it. Please keep in mind that good bridge is never based on exact science, but rather the application of good judgment, once one begins to understand both the limitation of bidding and the practical application.

bobbywolffOctober 31st, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Hi Ted,

With your facts provided, and on an a priori and no advance information on the ability of each defender (especially your RHO), simply play the AK of diamonds and run the jack if it is not covered.

That choice allows the queen doubleton to be picked up in either hand, and since there is no further evidence given, it is the most likely.

Of course, most hands (perhaps 90+), including tempo breaks by either opponent and/or the proclivities of the opening leader (who led the ace and one trump at the beginning) or/even the more nervous one (slightly more likely to hold that key card), but lacking any of that, it is extremely close, so never losing to the Qx and the queen more likely to be held with with the four rather than the three barely makes it the scientific line.

WARNING: While playing against very good players, no doubt they will know exactly your problem before you make your critical choice, so whichever way you think they are directing you, choose the other. An example would be if RHO would study late and the throw a diamond away I would take the non-percentage view of finessing the 10 (unless they were on to me and thought I was just another player).

IOW a lesser known declarer who is really good will always have an advantage since he or she will be thought to be influenced by normal, slightly longer hesitations.

Don’t you just love this game but, if not, you are smart enough to get really good, you will learn to adore it!

TedNovember 1st, 2017 at 12:27 am

Hi Bobby,

Both opponents have won national events. and there was no hitches or other table clues to work with. I did take the ruffing finesse (not feeling totally convinced then that it was the right percentage play), and, of course, it lost.

Thanks, again.

bobbywolffNovember 1st, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Hi Ted,

No doubt, since you also did the wrong thing, you could have, suggested to me by one of my earlier mentors, dropped a card from your hand, face down toward the defender closest to you and then when you bend down to pick it up, get a fast peek.

Some may think that ploy may be unethical or even worse, and believe it or not, they may be right, but unfortunately that behavior still exists, so every man for himself and never forget to hold your cards up.

ONLY KIDDING! except for holding your cards up.

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