Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

The sense of being well-dressed gives a feeling of tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow.

C.F. Forbes

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


The second of our weekly themed deals again features the art of maneuvering with a singleton trump facing length, when the key is to decide which finesse to take — if any — and why.

South upgrades his hand into a three-level pre-empt because of the vulnerability and his extra side-suit shape. North trustingly raises to game, and after a spade lead declarer can see that he may be home if clubs behave. If they don’t, he would like to play hearts for one loser. What is the best way to proceed?

We saw yesterday that with a singleton facing K-Q-10-x-x-x, we should lead to the 10. Our chances of success are clearly better today, given our better honors and intermediates.

If trumps are 3-3, it is a blind guess as to whether to lead to the 10 or the queen. King-third and jack-third to our right are equally likely. If East has a doubleton king or jack, you will capture it by finessing either the queen or the 10, then following up with the ace. What if West has the doubleton honor? You cannot succeed when he has the doubleton king, since even if you lead to the 10 initially, you still won’t be able to pick up East’s jack. The critical holding is the doubleton jack with West; you must lead to the queen, then follow up with the ace to drop the jack. In other words, all holdings but one cancel each other out, but an initial lead to the queen picks up one crucial holding not covered by leading to the 10.

Your hand isn’t suitable for a pre-emptive raise in that you have too much defense, and you aren’t close to having the values for a limit raise. What does that leave? A simple raise, maybe planning to compete to three spades, is possible. Or a jump cue-bid of three diamonds to show four trumps and 7-9 high-card points or so, also called a mixed raise, might be possible.


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

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 19th, 2019 at 3:12 pm

HI Bobby,

I’m not sure about those diamonds on BWTA. West could have D109xx or AQ109x, for example. The hand could be spectacularly good in terms of tricks (e.g. partner having singleton DQ) or a working 4 count with a bit of shape. Shift the long suit to clubs, and ideally add the C10, and I’d be far more likely to consider a fit jump. As it stands, I think I might be getting a very hard stare from across the table on this if I put it down.



Bobby WolffFebruary 19th, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Hi Iain,

And the experienced player accustomed to playing percentages, says amen!

It is not that partner cannot have a key ace, queen or even some length in a suit opened by his RHO, however (with especially numbers) it is significantly less likely to occur. And even if this hand is an exception (especially with three card length), the opening lead and return may quickly diminish the number of tricks partner may take even with spades as trump.

Such an undeniable likelihood should suggest to even a newbie at the game, to tone down the otherwise significant value of that solid trump support, particularly so when the king of trump, if missing between the two hands, will figure to be in the right hand to be trapped, if and when declarer will have an entry to dummy in order to get it done quickly enough.

Basic bridge judgment should correctly influence the holder of this hand to tone it down. If it is an exception so be it, but after all, that phrase is the definition of the last word in the first paragraph.

Finally, reserve those hard stares for the opponents to menace each other, not
ourselves. Thanks for your good advice.