Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 22nd, 2012

What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.

Benjamin Disraeli


South North
Both ♠ 5 3 2
 9
 K Q 10 8 7
♣ 7 6 5 2
West East
♠ —
 Q J 10 8 7 6 4 3
 A J 9 5
♣ 4
♠ Q 7 6
 K 5 2
 6 4 2
♣ 10 9 8 3
South
♠ A K J 10 9 8 4
 A
 3
♣ A K Q J
South West North East
2♣ 5 Pass Pass
6♠ All pass    

Q

When the opponents pre-empt, you are often forced to guess, as in today’s deal. But how unreasonable is it to bid slam here, hoping for the spade queen or spade length in dummy?

The defenders lead the heart queen to your ace. You cash the spade ace and your worst fears are realized when West discards on this trick. What should be your plan next?

You must now strip all the clubs from the hand that has the diamond ace. If East has only two clubs, you need to decide which defender has the diamond ace, but why not cash two clubs to see if you can find out more? Best is to lead the club queen first. After all, West may give you honest count if he thinks his partner needs to know when to take his club winner.

When you cash a second top club, you discover the club break, so it is quite safe to take just one of your remaining club winners (not both!), then lead a diamond. You need West to have the diamond ace — if East had it, he could exit with his last club. When West wins and plays a red suit, you win in dummy, pitching your club from hand and take the spade finesse.

Note that had you cashed your last club before leading your diamond, whoever wins the diamond ace can play a second diamond and force you to ruff in hand, preventing you from taking the spade finesse.



Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Since declarer is as likely as dummy to be short in hearts, you might as well lead a low heart. Partner can win and continue the suit in an attempt to tap declarer out and maybe establish your small trumps.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 7 6 5
 K 9 6 3
 J 2
♣ J 9 4
South West North East
1♣
Pass 1 1 1♠
3 3♠ Pass 4♠
All pass      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Are the rules for bidding in sandwich seat the same as for making an overcall? Yesterday when vulnerable I dealt myself ♠ K-Q-2,  9-7-4,  8-4, ♣ A-Q-8-3-2. I passed, but after one diamond to my left and one heart to my right I felt obliged to bid two clubs. My partner subsequently did not agree. What do you say?

Interrupter, Selma, Ala.

You should beware of overcalling vulnerable at the two-level on suits without decent intermediates, especially when you don't know whether you really want the suit you bid led. Here, why do you think a spade lead would be bad, if that is your partner's natural lead?

A recent column that appeared in the Houston Chronicle dealt with how to play Q-10-x facing A-9-8-x for three tricks. You discussed the fact that running the queen gives the defenders no chance to err, while low toward the queen lets you read the table. Can that approach be extended to advancing the 10 from hand with A-J-x-x in dummy facing K-10-9-x?

Applying Pressure, Madison, Wis.

I like the idea of giving the opponents a chance to play an honor, so here running the 10 to tempt a cover looks best. But move the nine into the dummy and leading the jack from that holding might give you a chance to gauge the opponents' reactions.

With ♠ Q-9-8-3,  7-4,  K-9, ♣ A-Q-6-4-3, should I pass or bid? And does the vulnerability or form of scoring matter?

First Up, Grenada, Miss.

With a decent lead-directing suit and a guaranteed easy rebid in spades, this is a clear-cut opener, even in Standard American. It would not take much to persuade me to pass — for example, make the second suit diamonds, not spades. Equally, move my club queen into hearts so that I held ace-fifth of clubs, and now my suit is no longer one that I feel the need to emphasize.

Playing matchpoints, I was in second seat with ♠ A-K,  K-Q-7-4,  A-10-6-3-2 ♣ A-2 and opened one diamond. My partner, who had five small spades and the doubleton king-queen of diamonds with no other honors, passed. We made five while others played three no-trump and brought it home. Could I have opened with an off-shape call of two no-trump, and should my partner have responded one spade?

Four in Hand, Montreal, Quebec

Yes, that is a respectable but not compulsory two-no-trump opening. With 20 quasi-balanced points, go for the aggressive action. (You may miss a diamond slam but you reach the major-suit games more easily.) I'd also have responded one spade in an attempt to improve the partscore. But nobody did anything stupid; three no-trump, on a club lead, surely needs at least one of the red suits to behave.

I learned the club/diamond responses to Roman Keycard Blackwood as showing 1 or 4 and 0 or 3, respectively, and that is how I usually see it in your columns. But once in a while, the responses are reversed. Is it simply partnership agreement to play it one way versus the other? Is one way advantageous somehow?

Back to Front, Canton, Ga.

Yes, this is no more than a matter of partnership agreement. The 14/30 responses came after the other scheme; there may be a small percentage advantage, but it is more than outweighed by the issue of remembering what you play!


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Must I change my triumphant songs? Said I to myself;
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?

Walt Whitman


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

♣5

Second hand low is not always best. Consider today's deal from the 2011 Bermuda Bowl, where South generally ended up playing two or three no-trump on a club lead to his nine. All declarers next played the diamond king, and most Easts won the second diamond to return a club. South does best to win and lead a spade, hoping to force an entry to dummy's diamonds.

West should now infer that East must have the spade king to have won the diamond. So if South leads a low spade, West must insert the 10! Now the defenders can deny declarer an entry to dummy whatever he does. By contrast, if South starts by leading out the spade jack, both defenders must duck.

When Chris Bosenberg of South Africa was declarer, he played on diamonds at trick two, and East took the second diamond and played back a heart.

Declarer finessed, cashed the club ace, and exited with a low heart — a fine play. East won and returned a low heart, letting declarer repeat the finesse (West pitching his diamond and a club) and play a spade to the nine and king. That now ensured the entry to dummy for the contract.

Here, the blocking play of the spade 10 by West would not have worked. East could win the spade king and return a spade, but declarer could play the spade jack. Now West’s winning the trick gives declarer the entry to dummy, while ducking the trick leads to West’s being subsequently endplayed in spades.



You have just enough to raise to four spades. The reason is that had your partner made a three-spade overcall, he would have already shown a decent opening bid. The double followed by a new suit bid shows even more extras, and while you cannot be sure your diamond queen and doubleton club will be useful, it is better to have them than not.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 9 5
 5 3 2
 Q 9 8 5 4
♣ 7 4
South West North East
3♣ Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 3♠ Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 19th, 2012

As far as I'm concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.

Albert Einstein


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

♣K

A vise squeeze conjures up images of the jaws tightening till something has to give. In England it is called a vice squeeze, which conjures up a completely different image.

You don’t recognize the maneuver? Well, Antonio Sementa demonstrated it nicely here in a deal from the 2011 Bermuda Bowl.

Whereas four hearts had gone down without a fight in the other room (declarer winning the first club, cashing the heart ace, and running into a trump promotion), Sementa ducked the first club, then led out the heart ace, and overtook the diamond jack with the diamond queen to play a second heart. East won the king and exited in diamonds.

Sementa won in hand, drew the outstanding trump, then tested diamonds, ruffing the fourth diamond back to hand. He had reached an ending where he had played four rounds of hearts, two clubs and four diamonds. He could simply have played for the spade ace to be onside now, but the auction had suggested this would not work.

Instead, Sementa led out the last trump. He was hoping to find the queen-jack of spades onside together with the club guard. And so it proved. On the last trump West had to pitch a spade, reducing to one honor and his master club, and now declarer led a spade up to the queen, king and ace, scoring trick 13 with the spade 10.



Do not show this problem to anyone of an impressionable age or to a player suffering from a weak heart. My recommendation is that you use four hearts as a slam-try in spades, neither promising nor denying a heart control. The logic is that with four of a minor being natural here, you need a slam-try for spades. The choice — quite a reasonable alternative — is to jump to five spades to ask for a heart control.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 10 7 4
 4 3 2
 A Q 7 3
♣ A 8
South West North East
3 3♠ Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 18th, 2012

To mischief trained, e'en from his mother's womb,
Grown old in fraud, though yet in manhood’s bloom.

Charles Churchill


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

10

When the Open teams of England and Turkey met in the 2008 European Championships, Yalcin Atabey of Turkey had done well to reach five clubs as South. Those declarers who ended in three no-trump,whether North or South, were doomed to fail, as both East and West had natural red-suit leads.

In opposition were England’s Hackett twins, Justin and Jason, and Justin led a heart against the club game. At first glance there appear to be three losers — one in each of the red suits plus the spade ace. But with those excellent spade intermediates in dummy, the contract looks safe. Declarer will win the heart lead, enter dummy in trumps, and lead a spade to the king. West wins with the ace and leads a heart to East’s king. East does best to return a diamond. However, a spade to the queen and a spade ruff set up the suit. It only remains to finish drawing trump and discard two diamonds from hand on dummy’s spades.

Declarer began as prophesied. At trick three, Atabey led a spade to the king, which held, Justin ducking impassively. South continued with a spade to the 10. In with the jack, Jason returned a diamond, taken by dummy’s ace. Atabey drew the remaining trumps, then confidently led the spade queen, on which he discarded a diamond, believing that East held the ace. But it was West who produced this card, and his diamond return saw the game drift two down.



Whether you play two clubs as forcing or not, that is the call you should make now. You have no idea what the correct strain or level for this hand is (or even if it is your side's hand), so make a natural call and wait to support spades at your next turn, suggesting very much this sort of hand.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 7
 A 8 6
 10 4 3
♣ K Q 10 6 5
South West North East
1 1♠ Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The Poets … overtake
The Ideal with the brush, or, soaring, wake
Far in the rolling clouds their glorious strings.

Lloyd Mifflin


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

♣8

In today's deal you have bid to what looks like an excellent no-trump slam. North's jump to six may seem precipitous, but he has so many high cards that it would be pessimistic not to drive to slam.

Since you have nine tricks outside hearts, three tricks from that source will give you your contract. However, while it might appear that all you need to do is find one heart honor onside, you will need to exercise considerable care in managing your entries. Can you see why?

The point is that you may need to take three finesses in hearts, so you should arrange your play of the spade suit with this in mind. After winning the club lead, you play the spade king and overtake with the ace. The first heart finesse loses to West’s queen and you win the club return. You then lead the spade 10, overtaking with dummy’s queen when West follows low.

If spades break 3-2, you can afford this double overtake; the spade jack will draw West’s last spade. If instead East began with a singleton spade, you will have cleared the way for a finesse of dummy’s spade eight! Let’s say that East does indeed show out on the second spade. You take a second heart finesse, which wins, and return to dummy with a marked finesse of the spade eight. After cashing the spade jack and spade three, you finesse for the third time in hearts and mark up your slam.



How many points are there in this deck? Since it is very common nowadays to use a jump to two spades as semi-pre-emptive (the same hand but with, say, ace-fifth of spades), it is not easy to show a limit bid in spades. Best is to pass — which initially indicates nothing to say — then to jump in spades to show a real spade invitation.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A Q J 8 3
 8 5 2
 8 7 5
♣ Q J
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl.
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Wickedness is always easier than virtue, for it takes the shortcut to everything.

Samuel Johnson


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

*Fourth suit forcing

♠J

Tim Bourke of Canberra, Australia, spotted this fine play in a delicate 4-3 fit from the Transnational Open Teams at the last world championships.

Against four spades West led the spade jack to the seven, two and king. At trick two, declarer played the heart nine around to East’s king. That player switched to the diamond five to his partner’s king, on which declarer unblocked the 10 from dummy.

Now West returned the spade six. To maintain trump control and to cater to a possible 4-2 trump break, declarer played the eight from dummy. South won with the nine and persevered with the three to dummy’s queen. Declarer cashed the spade ace to draw the last trump, then finessed in diamonds, cashed the diamond ace (dropping the jack), then played the diamond queen. The clubs provided the rest of the tricks, giving 620 to East-West.

It was impossible to see, but had East continued with a top spade at trick three, the combination of the bad lies in spades and diamonds would have been too much for declarer. Of course, the auction had given him no chance to get this right.

But declarer had deviated from the winning line, one that he really should have spotted. Declarer’s best play is to duck trick one! Now the defenders cannot do anything. Maybe a club shift would be best, attacking declarer’s communications, but so long as he plays diamonds for two tricks, one way or another he is home.



Resist the temptation to use the ubiquitous and iniquitous cuebid simply to announce a good hand. This is a task for … super-cuebid. Here a jump to four hearts is a splinter agreeing clubs and setting up a game-force. As you can see, slam might be cold facing the right minimum hand, and you owe it to your partner not to give up on it just because both opponents are bidding.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 5 4
 9
 A Q 9 7
♣ Q 10 9 8 2
South West North East
1 2♣ 2
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 15th, 2012

It is commonly said, and more particularly by Lord Shaftesbury, that ridicule is the best test of truth.

Lord Chesterfield


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

♣6

While a fair percentage of the North-South field reached four spades on this deal from a major pairs game, with mixed success, two spades was a sensible partscore.

The club six was often the lead from West, and declarer usually put up dummy’s king to muddy the waters. When East took the ace, he had the problem of whether to play for a ruff or to cash the hearts. It looked reasonable to return a club, and now declarer was in with a shout to make his game.

However, when he takes the club jack, he has to decide what to do next. Obviously, he has two potential winners in dummy for his heart losers. And indeed if diamonds are 3-3, he might emerge with 11 tricks, but if he plays for the diamond break, he might finish with only nine winners. For example, if he tests diamonds after cashing the top spades and the suit breaks 4-2, he might not get the club discard in time.

The best play is to enlist the opposition’s help by leading the diamond queen before cashing the spade ace-king. Both defenders can be expected to give honest count, perhaps each assuming their partner has the diamond ace. Now when the suit seems to be 3-3, declarer can cash the top spades, unblock the diamonds, and follow up with the club queen. When the same hand is long in both black suits, declarer can next play the 13th diamond and get both his hearts away for an additional, and valuable, overtrick.



This is a simple choice between the majors. Is a spade lead more likely to give declarer something he cannot do for himself, given that partner rates to be 5-5 or 5-4 in the majors (and unsuitable for a reopening double)? I lean toward a heart if only because this might go some way to insuring a ruff or overruff for our side.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 4 3
 8 6
 K 7 5 2
♣ Q 9 4 3
South West North East
1♠ 2♣
Pass Pass 2 Pass
2♠ 3♣ All pass  

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Please assess the blame. West opened three spades to my right, and I held 14 points in aces and kings, with two spades, three hearts, and four cards in each minor. I passed, and when my partner let it go with four decent spades and 12 points, it was passed out; down five for 500! Meanwhile, we could have made 660 in three no-trump. Did either of us do anything wrong?

Finger-Pointer, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

If you forced me to act with one of the hands, I would double three spades in the direct seat, aware that this is an overbid but feeling obligated to take the pressure off partner. With the responding hand I would surely pass if three spades came around to me; one can't balance and play partner to hold this much. Nobody did anything silly at your table.

Do you like the idea of signaling suit preference on the suits attacked by your opponents? When if ever should you instead signal count or attitude?

Signal Corps, Rockford, Ill.

Never signal attitude on a suit played by your opponent. You never need to do that – if your opponent has played the wrong suit you should already be doing just fine! Signal count only if you think partner's play in that suit or another suit will depend on the number of cards you hold. Otherwise play up the line as a default, or if you think partner is paying attention, use your small cards for suit preference.

I was confronted with an unusual auction in a recent club match. I opened one club, my LHO doubled, my partner passed, and and my RHO bid one heart. This was passed back to my partner, who doubled. Holding ♠ Q-9-8-3,  J-10,  K-Q-9, ♣ A-Q-5-2, should I pass or bid?

Torn in Two, Levittown, Pa.

Unfortunately, your doubleton heart does not tell you whether partner has scattered values with two or three hearts, or if he has a strong hand with four hearts and is looking for a penalty. Since with the latter hand he might have redoubled on the round before, I will play safely and bid one spade, then apologize later.

At my club, the reigning expert opened three spades against me. I passed, holding two small cards each in spades and hearts, six diamonds to the ace, and three low clubs. My RHO bid three no-trump, and now my partner sacrificed in four clubs. The expert bid four spades, raised to six spades! At favorable vulnerability would you sacrifice when the bidding comes back to you, and if not, what would you lead?

Biting the Bullet, East Brunswick, N.J.

I would never sacrifice here. Even if you are right, you are probably going to get a zero for minus 800. I'd lead the diamond ace. Dummy surely has all the other first-round controls. Maybe I can give my partner a ruff, or cash a second diamond.

I play contract bridge with a group of friends. Recently one of the players mentioned a rule I had never heard of nor could I confirm it in my bridge books. If I open with one in a suit, she said I may not rebid that suit, unless I have six there. Is that sensible advice?

Second Hand Rose, Jackson, Tenn.

This is sensible advice but is not a rule, more a guideline. A better way to put it is that facing a one-level response, you would only rebid a five-card minor if it looked like six and had no viable alternative. But situations sometimes demand it, when you cannot bid one no-trump and have no second suit.

For the record, facing a two-level response, you are often faced with a flawed two no-trump rebid, or the need to repeat a moderate five-carder. In general what you do here is more about style than right or wrong.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 13th, 2012

And who's of this or that estate
We do not wholly calculate,
When baffling shades that shift and cling
Are not without their glimmering.

Edwin Arlington Robinson


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

10

In the 2011 Bermuda Bowl Seniors match between France and Poland, both tables defended four spades. Jerzy Russyan for Poland led the spade five to the nine and queen, and Francois Leenhardt took the heart finesse at trick two, losing to the queen. Krzysztof Lasocki led the diamond king back, and Leenhardt won the ace, drew trumps, and tried to split the hearts. When that failed, he tried a club to the king and was one down when that suit too was unfriendly : minus 50.

For France, Philippe Vanhoutte led the diamond seven to the queen and ace and Apolinary Kowalski drew trumps in three rounds, ending in dummy. Now he led a diamond toward his jack, which East had to duck. (Had he taken his queen, he would have built a discard for declarer’s heart loser.)

Now Kowalski followed up by cashing the heart ace and king. When the queen appeared, two more rounds of hearts (with the diamond loser being pitched) endplayed Vanhoutte to concede a trick to the club king. That was plus 450 for 11 IMPs to Poland.

Given that diamonds were 4-2, Kowalski understood that if the heart finesse was working, he did not need to take it — at least if the hearts were breaking 3-3 or 4-2. Had the heart queen not appeared, he could have played a third heart anyway. Even if West could win cheaply and play the fourth heart, Kowalski would simply discard his diamond loser, and the endplay would still ensure the contract.



Three diamonds. Although I'm loath to suggest additional conventions for the intermediate player, I believe that a raise to three diamonds should be forcing now. With a weak hand here, South should bid either fourth suit or two no-trump (whichever is cheaper) as an artificial statement of weakness, denying five cards in his original suit. Repeating his own suit should simply show five cards and be a one-round force.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q 7 6 3
 7 3 2
 A J 6
♣ K 6
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2 Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.