Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.

Henry David Thoreau

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

Your choice

In the finals of the 1998 Spingold Teams, the Nickell team took on the Baze squad.

Both tables reached game contracts after similar auctions. On the auction shown, Marek Szymanowski had little reason to lead anything but a club; there did not seem to be much point in following an active defense where trumps appeared to be splitting badly.

Declarer was allowed to win the club king in hand. He played trumps immediately, and the lie of the diamond suit compensated for the bad heart split, to allow him to make 10 tricks. By contrast, Meckstroth (West at his table) had a fuller picture of the deal since his partner had opened a 14-16 no-trump. Nonetheless, since North had bid spades, I thought he did remarkably well to find the spade lead, which started the force on declarer.

Declarer won, ran the diamond 10 at the second trick, then played trumps and was forced on a low spade return. He could never score his side’s club trick, and thus went one down, for 10 IMPs to the Nickell team.

On reflection, I wonder if declarer gave this his best shot. If North had played a club from dummy at trick three, Eric Rodwell would have had to make the slightly counterintuitive play of rising with the ace to continue with spades to beat him. If he fails to do that, declarer has regained the lost tempo. No doubt East would have done so, but I would have liked to see his opponents force him to find the play.

It looks obvious to bid four hearts here, but what you are supposed to do if your LHO bids four spades and the auction comes back to you? You will have to guess, and your partner will be unaware of your hand type. Help him get involved in the decision by bidding four diamonds, so he knows whether his cards are working on offense or defense and can perhaps choose for you.


♠ 5
 K Q J 7 4
 A K J 4 2
♣ K 7
South West North East
1 1 ♠ 2 3 ♠

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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 ClimieJanuary 3rd, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

The BWTA hand today reminded me of a similar Terence Reese problem in “Practical Bidding and Practical Play” where he gave similar advice. After all, consider what partner would do with J10x Axx 9xxxx Jx or J10x Axx xx J9xxx if you bid 4H and 4S followed. He’d surely pass both but the 4D bid instead allows him to take a big stick to 4S in the latter case and possibly to push on in the former knowing about the double fit.

One of Reese’s comments was that some players might argue they are stopping a lead into your second suit, but he asked slightly acidly why they were expecting that anyway!



bobbywolffJanuary 3rd, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Your narrative makes today’s BWTA come alive with common sense.

Very simply, by first explaining and then with an example, contrived, but realistic, showing, especially in this case, the vast difference in mostly defensive potential between the two distributions, causing likely a winning decision, doubling while holding the weak hand, (short diamonds) as opposed to bidding on with length.

Such is the calling card of strong partnerships, who, sometimes to others, appear to make “lucky” decisions, but in truth, are merely bidding to advantage, instead of just chance.