Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Speak softly — the sacred cows may hear.
Speak easy — the sacred cows must be fed.

Carl Sandburg


East North
Neither ♠ A 10 6
 K 10 8 2
 A K 8
♣ A 9 5
West East
♠ 5 4 2
 A Q J 3
 4
♣ 10 8 7 6 4
♠ J 9 8 7 3
 9 6
 J 10 9 6
♣ K 2
South
♠ K Q
 7 5 4
 Q 7 5 3 2
♣ Q J 3
South West North East
Pass
Pass Pass 1♣ Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

♣6

Patrick Jourdain has been secretary or president of the International Bridge Press Association for 30 years. He is also a player: his team won the Crockford's Plate in England earlier this year, and he presented the following deal from the event as an example of clear thinking.

Against three no-trump the lead of the club six went to East’s king. When the club two came back, South had a choice of hands in which to win it. Before you read on, you might care to consider how you would advance.

At the table declarer took dummy’s ace, preserving the queen as a later entry to hand. He then cashed his top spades in hand and dummy’s two top diamonds. On the second of these, West pitched a heart rather than a club. Declarer now decided to cash the spade ace, cross to hand with the diamond king, and exit with the fourth round of diamonds to East to force a heart play. Alas, with spades 5-3, East had two spades to cash and the heart ace was the setting trick.

If you judge that clubs are likely to be 5-2, you can avoid having to rely on the heart suit. You need to win the second club in hand and play four rounds of diamonds. With no club to return, East can do no better than exit with a spade. Having taken your spade and diamond winners in hand, the two black aces in dummy will give you nine tricks.


Your partner's sequence does NOT promise extras — he could have been planning to rebid one spade over a red suit with a minimum hand and a little shape. So you certainly need do no more than bid three clubs now and let partner decide where to go next.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q
 7 5 4
 Q 7 5 3 2
♣ Q J 3
South West North East
1♣ 1
2 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 16th, 2011

Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone.

Pyrrhus


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

Today's deal from a recent junior championship was one of the coups of the year. It arose in the Norway-Portugal match, and it was somewhat ironic that all it did was hold declarer's losses on the board.

Three no-trump by South looks to be a fair spot, but you will see that it is very hard work for declarer to establish a ninth trick. Say you win the lead of the heart 10, cross to dummy, and successfully run the diamond 10. West wins and plays a second heart, and the defense has the tempo to establish hearts before you get a diamond trick.

All right: back to the drawing board. Win the second heart and play on diamonds. That is no good either; the defense still has the necessary communications to get hearts going.

Roderigo Soares varied the script when he found the excellent play of ducking two rounds of hearts! West naturally enough played a third heart, and now Soares crossed to dummy in clubs to run the diamond 10 to the king. (Yes, East would have done better to cover the diamond 10 with the jack, but this play is not so easy to spot at the table, and he did not find it.) As West had no heart left, declarer came to his ninth trick in comfort.

Alas for him, his teammates had been doubled in three hearts with the East-West cards and had gone for 800, so Soares’s coup only limited the damage. Still, it was a very well-played hand.


You have enough to invite game, and the obvious trump suit is diamonds, so jump to three diamonds to show precisely these values. If no-trump is the correct resting place, let partner suggest it. Without an honor-card in spades, you should not probe for no-trump here unless you have game-forcing values.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 6 3
 A Q 7 6
 Q 4 3
♣ K 8 4
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 15th, 2011

A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.

Jonathan Swift


North North
Neither ♠ K 8 6 5 4 3
 K 6 5
 6
♣ 8 7 6
West East
♠ A 10 9 2
 J 9 3 2
 J 7 3
♣ 9 2
♠ 7
 A 10 8 7
 K 10 9 2
♣ K J 5 3
South
♠ Q J
 Q 4
 A Q 8 5 4
♣ A Q 10 4
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2♠ Pass 3♠ Pass
4♠ All pass    

3

Bridge is as full of cliches and aphorisms as any sporting activity. A phrase that gets quite a lot of usage is the "power of the closed hand." It means that declarer, by leading toward his own hand, the unknown quantity, can put the defenders under a lot of pressure.

Consider today’s deal, which arose at Board-a-Match, which is a strange hybrid form of scoring. Each team takes on another at pairs scoring, and whoever does better on the board gets a point, regardless of the margin of victory. This leads to attempting to justify nonbridge decisions — which was my excuse for opening one no-trump with the South cards.

After a transfer and a mildly aggressive invitational raise by my partner, I declared four spades. Of course this auction has protected all the side suits, but the 4-1 trump split and the heart-honor location made the game contract extremely tough on the third-and-fifth lead of the heart three. A full point was at stake, since in the other room two spades had produced nine tricks.

Having won the heart queen at trick one, I decided to put East under pressure by playing the diamond ace, ruffing a diamond in dummy, then leading back a small heart. Falling for the bait, East rose with the ace, then shifted to a club. I put in the 10, and when it won, only the bad trump break held me to 10 tricks.


This is a takeout double. Your partner rates to have a singleton heart and at least three cards in both spades and diamonds. While the 6-2 club fit might be a possible contract, playing two spades looks equally attractive, given your good spade spots. So I would bid two spades now.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 10 9 2
 J 9 3 2
 J 7 3
♣ 9 2
South West North East
1 2♣ 2
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

I toss my head, and so does he;
What tricks he dares to play on me!

Michael Field


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

♠Q

Imagine that you are West defending against two diamonds doubled. You elect to lead the spade queen. Declarer crosses to the club ace, ruffs a club, and advances the spade two. Over to you.

In this deal from a recent invitational pairs event, Zia had the South cards and must have been surprised to be doubled in two diamonds with such a good hand. When Marcin Lesniewski left his partner’s double in and led the spade queen, Zia won, cashed the club ace, ruffed a club and sneakily led a low spade toward dummy’s 10! When Lesniewski ducked this (and we’ve all made worse plays than that), Zia could put up the spade 10, ruff another club, cash the spade king, and exit with the heart nine.

This traveled around to the five, king and ace. East could lead trump once, but Zia simply ducked this to West. Lesniewski could cash his heart queen but then had to exit with his last spade. Zia scored his third low trump and exited with a low trump. West won, and had to concede the last two trump tricks to South for a doubled overtrick.

At another table South found himself in three diamonds doubled. On the lead of the spade queen, declarer crossed to the club ace and rather naively took the diamond finesse. From that point on, declarer could not avoid going down two for a penalty of 500.


Your partner has shown both minors and a really good hand. Thus in context your additional club length looks very useful. Rather than going overboard, make a quiet call of two no-trump to suggest a heart stop and a hand you are not ashamed of. The alternative would be to jump to four clubs (I might do that with the heart ace and club king, where I knew my honors were pulling their weight).

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 5 4
 K 4 3 2
 4
♣ A 9 7 6 4
South West North East
1♣ 1
2♣ 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or we shall most assuredly all hang separately.

Benjamin Franklin


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

♣J

Just as there is reputed to be honor amongs thieves, so bridge journalists tend to be on good terms with one another. My friend and fellow journalist Frank Stewart has written a new book on intermediate play and defense. Here is a deal from his book "Who Has the Queen? — the Bridge Player's Handbook of Card Reading."

You lead the club jack against four spades, dummy’s king wins, and East plays the deuce. When declarer next leads the spade jack from dummy, East wins with the king and shifts to the heart nine; South follows with the three.

South’s second bid suggested about 11 points with balanced pattern. If East’s heart is a singleton, you must take your ace and return a heart, but if East had a doubleton heart, you need to duck. What about it?

South probably has only four spades — if East had the doubleton trump ace-king, his defense would make no sense — and if South had four hearts, his response to one club would have been one heart.

Accordingly, signal with the heart 10. When East gets back in with the spade ace, he will lead his second heart, and you will win and give him a heart ruff.

Equally valid: If East had a singleton heart, he would have cashed his second high trump before leading his singleton, giving you no option but to win immediately and return a heart.

The book will be available at $21.95 postpaid, from PO Box 962, Fayette AL 35555.


Your partner has shown long clubs, four hearts and real extras. It looks natural to start by developing your hand with a cue-bid of three diamonds, since you really do not know what siut should be trump here or if three no-trump should be your final destination. If your partner does not bid three no-trump, you will support clubs at your next turn.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 9 8 4
 Q J 3
 A 10 4
♣ Q 7 6
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1♠ 2 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 12th, 2011

Too late, too late! Ye cannot enter now.

Alfred Lord Tennyson


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

J

When a contract seems simple, check for possible pitfalls, and if they exist, take evasive action. Today's deal from a recent junior trials sees South not getting the point until too late.

Given that this was a junior event, North’s initial pass seems surprising, but he did not have a two-diamond pre-empt available. In any event, the best contract of three no-trump was reached easily enough.

West led the heart jack, which South won with the queen. It seems as if South has an easy passage, with just three aces to lose, and possibly the club queen as well. So declarer set about establishing the diamonds. East took the ace and returned another heart, which declarer won in dummy, in order to continue cashing diamonds.

What South had failed to take into account were the five discards he needed to make from hand. He pitched three spades and two clubs, but when he led dummy’s spade, East nipped in smartly with the ace to return a club through South’s now doubleton king-jack. The defense collected three club tricks, in addition to the aces in the two pointed suits: one down.

Declarer should have countered this possibility by establishing a spade winner at trick two. If a defender takes the ace immediately and returns a heart — as good as anything — South wins in hand and cashes one spade before setting about dislodging the diamond ace.

Whatever happens now, the defenders cannot take more than their four top winners.


Before leading, you should check if dummy has promised club length. If not, the lead of a top club looks as good as anything. If dummy has guaranteed real clubs, then perhaps a heart will hit dummy's shortness. Any honor in partner's hand makes a heart lead relatively safe.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 9 4
 J 9 6 4
 Q 5 4
♣ K Q 3
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1
Pass 1♠ Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Under what circumstances should the primary signal at the first trick be other than attitude? In other words, when would I signal count or suit-preference at the first trick?

Signal Corps, Dover, Del.

One should signal count when both defenders know third hand's attitude to the opening lead from the play to the first trick. (If opening leader's queen holds when dummy has the king, we assume third hand has the ace — he doesn't need to signal it a second time). But if, and only if, dummy has a holding or declarer has shown or is about to show a holding that makes it clear a continuation is unlikely to be right, third hand can signal suit-preference. This play is rarer than most think. Continuation of the opening lead is right more often than one might expect!

You are in second seat at unfavorable vulnerability with ♠ J-7-4-3-2,  4,  K, ♣ A-K-10-8-3-2. What do you do and what's your plan?

Fired Up, Bremerton, Wash.

This is a no-brainer. Passing won't ever allow you to get these values across, so you must open. You plan to open one club, then bid and rebid spades. (Just for the record: with better spades and worse clubs, I could live with a one-spade opening, but I still prefer one club.)

Have you heard of an "impossible spade" bid? My partner was discussing this yesterday and rather than embarrass myself by revealing my ignorance, I made an excuse and left, but I'm relying on you to fill in the blanks for me!

The Impossible Dream, Union City, Tenn.

If you respond one no-trump to one heart, you have denied the ability to bid spades, right? So now, if your partner introduces a minor, you can show a super hand for that suit by bidding two spades, while a direct raise of the minor suggests more shape and fewer high cards.

Recently in a BBO tournament I held ♠ Q-8-7-4,  K-10-9-3,  A-K, ♣ 9-3-2 at unfavorable vulnerability. My game is generally Zisciplined, so I passed rather than open my worst suit. Was my position unreasonably pessimistic? (The results suggested that my action left us better placed than if I had bid.)

Discretion Over Valor, Seneca, S.C.

It would take a lot to make me pass a 12-count with both majors (even facing a partner who opens light). But I do agree that three small clubs is a huge negative here, and if we do end up defending, I'd surely regret opening this hand!

Like many of your devoted readers, I enjoy covering the defensive hands to figure out my plan before reading the text. I have a piece of cardboard already cut and I just slide it over the East and West hands. Unfortunately, I never get to test my defense! This could be solved by adding a line under "Aces on Bridge" saying, "Today you are East" or "Cover the West and South hands." Once I start to read the text, it is too late, as the North-South hands are memorized.

Self-Examination, Danville, Ill.

When I write the column, the text comes first, then the deal; I'm assuming from what you say that when you get the deal, you see it on top of the text — which is curious. Some columns do rearrange the material, but it is MY intention that you start with the text.


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 2011.
If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact
reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Sometimes you gotta lose some to win some later.

Aaron Burks


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

♠6

David Berkowitz, playing with Larry Cohen, made his game contract in today's deal by hoping that a finesse would lose rather than win. Sometimes that works out to be good news, not bad.

North would likely have a relatively easy task in four spades on the defense of three rounds of clubs. But the play in four spades from the South seat is very challenging. (If West leads the club queen, East should leave his partner on play, and after a diamond shift, declarer will have to fly up with the diamond ace to make.

However, Berkowitz as South was treated to a trump lead, even though East had overcalled in clubs. He won in hand, crossed to the North hand with a second trump, and drew the correct inference from the bidding when he led a low heart from dummy toward his queen in hand. If East takes the king, the route forward is clear, in that declarer can discard both his diamond losers on the hearts, so East correctly ducked.

Berkowitz took the heart queen, played the heart ace, ruffed a heart high, then exited from hand with a club. East overtook his partner’s queen, cashed two clubs, and played the heart king. Berkowitz ruffed that, then led his last club, letting it ride, throwing a diamond from dummy to endplay East to give a ruff and discard or play a diamond back into the ace-queen.


You may not have the traditional values associated with an overcall in spades, but it is important in positions like this, where you know what suit you want your partner to lead, to get into the action by bidding your strong suit. If you always overcall at the one-level with good suits like this, the negative inferences that can be drawn from a failure to act are also very important and revealing.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q J 10 7
 Q 2
 10 7 6
♣ 9 7 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1
?      

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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 9th, 2011

He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.

Friedrich von Schiller


South North
Neither ♠ A K 4 3
 A 7 4
 10 4
♣ 7 5 3 2
West East
♠ Q 10 8 7
 K J 8 5 3
 —
♣ A K Q 9
♠ 6 5 2
 10 9 6
 Q J 9 8
♣ 10 6 4
South
♠ J 9
 Q 2
 A K 7 6 5 3 2
♣ J 8
South West North East
1 1 Dbl. Pass
2 Dbl. Rdbl. 2
3 All pass    

♣K

After a tangled auction in which West started by overcalling in his five-card major rather than doubling (he expected to get a chance to show his extra values and short diamonds at his next turn, as he did), South bid on to three diamonds on his seven-card suit because of his lack of defense. East could not quite risk a double of the final contract, in case the diamond 10 was to his right, not his left.

West started off on clubs and continued the suit, knowing that a shift to any other suit would probably cost a trick.

Declarer ruffed the third club and played the diamond ace, discovering the bad news. Although declarer now appeared to have three top losers, careful timing enabled him to telescope them into two. The top diamonds were cashed, then dummy was entered with the spade king, and the fourth club was ruffed as East discarded a spade.

Then came the spade ace, and a spade ruff in the South hand. Finally, South led to the heart ace and advanced the last spade, having reduced his own hand to two diamonds and one heart. If East ruffed, South would discard his heart loser and score trick 13. If East did not, declarer would ruff in and concede the last two tricks twice over. If East had ruffed in earlier on in the hand, the heart loser would have been discarded in the same way. This technique is called a coup en passant.


In third seat, opening light is intended to make life hard for your opponents and to direct the best lead for your partner. Opening one club with this hand fails on both counts (I would rather pass than do that) while opening one spade achieves both goals. Don't worry about having only four spades!

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A K 4 3
 A 7 4
 10 4
♣ 7 5 3 2
South West North East
Pass 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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 8th, 2011

When I'm not thanked at all, I'm thanked enough;
I’ve done my duty, and I’ve done no more.

Henry Fielding


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

5

In olden days questions North might have wondered if he had enough in competition for a free raise to two spades. These days North can jump in spades pre-emptively – since he would cuebid with a limit raise in spades or better.

When the opponents bid four hearts, South elected to sacrifice in four spades, not expecting to be more than two down and with little defense against hearts. West did not have enough in shape to bid any further, so he passed, allowing East to double.

Holding trump control, West thought it logical to lead his singleton diamond, which East won with the jack. East was uncertain whether the lead was a singleton or from length, so rather than commit himself one way or the other, he continued with the heart king. When West did not overtake to lead a diamond, but instead followed with the heart jack (an unnaturally high card), it was clear to East that the diamond lead rated to be a singleton.

It would have been easy for East to continue hearts. Had he done so, declarer would have ended up down two. Instead, he found the elegant play of continuing at trick three with a low diamond, giving West his ruff and preserving his own major tenace.

West exited with the spade ace and then the heart ace. That let South ruff and draw trumps, but he could not avoid losing two more diamond tricks for a penalty of 500.


In this situation, your RHO has made a nonforcing call, so you should feel quite comfortable about bidding two spades. This is not technically a balancing position, but the fact that East is limited allows you to bid with a hand of this strength. With an ace more, you could double and then bid spades.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q 9 8 4
 9
 9 6 3 2
♣ A K 7
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT
?      

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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.