Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Love, and a cough, cannot be hid.

George Herbert


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

4

Guessing how to deal with powerhouses like South's in competition is really a lottery. Since you can never expect partner to cooperate, my advice is just guess whether to go high or low and hope to be lucky.

That was what today’s South did, and when North put down his dummy in six hearts, he apologized to his partner for offering him so little. South thanked him gravely and said that like the curate’s egg, parts of it were excellent.

After the lead of the diamond four to the nine and ace, declarer cashed the heart ace, then carefully led the heart eight to dummy’s 10. Now declarer played a club toward his hand. East knew declarer had at least two clubs, so he ducked, as good as anything, and the club king scored. South exited with a club and East overtook his partner’s nine to lead a spade through. Declarer scored his spade ace, crossed to dummy by leading his trump two to the three, then ruffed a club to isolate the menace, and ran his trumps, pitching a spade and diamond from dummy.

To keep the master club, East discarded a diamond, and South took the last three tricks in diamonds to make his slam.

Notice that declarer has to preserve the extra trump entry to dummy in order to ruff out the clubs and isolate the menace with East. If he does not do so, West keeps the club and spade masters and the squeeze fails.


Had the opponents not intervened, you would probably have responded one diamond, but here there is a decent case for raising to two clubs. You want a club lead if your LHO declares a major. You take away a round of bidding from him, and you may help partner compete for the partscore.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 4 2
 6 5
 J 10 9 5
♣ A J 10 5
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Dbl.
?      

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 8th, 2014

The noblest motive is the public good.

Sir Richard Steele


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

♠3

In today's deal the North hand is a particularly difficult one to describe facing a two-no-trump opening, since either minor suit might play much better than no-trump, but as it happens, despite your eight-card fits, you want to play no-trump today. Plan the play in six no-trump after a low spade lead.

Curiously, the hand is a guaranteed make, provided that West has at least one diamond. You win the spade queen, cash the diamond ace, then play a club to dummy’s ace.

Here you are home immediately, but assume nothing dramatic happens. If no king falls, try a diamond back to your queen, again prepared to claim if both opponents follow or if East has only one diamond. When you see West show out on the second diamond, simply lead another club. Should both opponents follow, you have six tricks in the majors and three in each of the minors by setting up clubs. But assume somebody has four clubs. If it is West who started with four clubs, he must duck the second club and now you have a second club trick in the bag. You can concede a diamond to East and set up your 12th trick in that suit. If it is East who started with length in both minors, he must win his club king.

Whatever major suit he exits in, you can run your major winners and guarantee to be able to squeeze him in the minor suits for your 12th trick.


This is a hand where some would argue that the form of scoring and vulnerability might influence you to open or pass. I say bridge is a bidders' game, and when you have points in your long suits and an easy rebid over partner's expected responses, bid first and apologize later. Switch the minors and I would pass, because of the rebid problem.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 9 8
 K 9
 K 10 7 3 2
♣ A J 6 3
South West North East
?      

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Marcus Aurelius


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

♠K

A loser-on-loser play was the way home for declarer on this well-bid small slam.

After North had cue-bid to show a limit raise or better, South’s three-spade call was an unequivocal slam-try with short spades. North appreciated that his spade length and three aces were going to be very useful to his partner. His jump to five hearts asked for good trumps, and South was happy to accept the invitation.

The spade king was West’s opening salvo. Declarer inspected dummy and appreciated that if trumps broke 2-2, there would be no further problems, as two clubs could be ruffed in dummy. The only loser would be the third round of diamonds.

After winning the first trick with the spade ace, South drew two rounds of trump and was disappointed to find West showing out on the second. The club ace and king stood up, then a third club was safely ruffed in dummy. The diamond ace, then a diamond to the king placed South back in hand to play the last club.

If West had shown out, the club could safely have been ruffed in dummy; then a spade ruff to hand would have allowed East’s last trump to be extracted. But when West produced the club queen, rather than ruff and be overruffed, South discarded dummy’s last diamond, exchanging one loser for another.

Ruffing the spade return, declarer trumped the last diamond, returned to hand with a spade ruff, and drew the last trump at trick 13.


With the expected number of hearts and more defense than might be expected in terms of aces, you should not consider bidding on just because you have fewer diamonds than your partner might expect. Simply pass and do your best to go plus.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A 8 6 3
 10 9 5 3
 A 9 3
♣ A 8
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 3 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

H.L. Mencken


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

♣Q

The percentage tables are unforgiving. If you follow the best chance to make your contract on every deal, you will end up a big winner. Meanwhile, the player who takes the second-best line will trail the field.

Today’s deal came up in the semifinals of a regional knockout event played at a recent Nationals, where the quality of the field should have been good enough to expect both declarers to have found their way home. However, that was not the case here, and neither South brought home the no-trump game.

What happened at both tables was that the defenders led clubs against three no-trump. South could see that ducking might produce an extremely unwelcome spade shift, so he won and unblocked diamonds, then led a spade to the jack. The defenders won and cleared clubs, leaving South with just seven tricks when neither spades nor diamonds behaved.

South had missed a small extra chance, which would have brought home the game. After winning the club lead, South must overtake his diamond queen with the ace, then play the diamond king, followed by the diamond eight. This works when diamonds are 3-3 or whenever there is a significant doubleton double honor in diamonds. Surprisingly, this is nearly a 10 percent extra chance.

Of course if the diamonds were 3-3 all along, you have given up an overtrick, but the beauty of teams play is that you can afford to sacrifice the occasional overtrick and undertrick to achieve your main target.


You have limited values, but your shape entitles you to issue a serious invitation to game. The best way to do that is to cue-bid two clubs, planning to raise partner's response in a major to three, or to bid two hearts over two diamonds to get partner to pick a major. You do not need to drive to game here; let partner get involved in the final decision.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q 10 6
 K 8 7 5 3
 J 9
♣ 7 6
South West North East
Pass 1♣ 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

He travels the fastest who travels alone.

Rudyard Kipling


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

♣J

This is something of a recurring theme perhaps, but in today's deal we can see how all too often the critical moment comes before declarer has taken the full measure of his problem.

Against four spades, reached after North’s raise to three spades had shown respectable trump support and at least scattered values, West led the club jack. When declarer covered with dummy’s queen, East took the ace and smartly switched to the heart 10. Declarer rose with the king, but West played the ace and returned a second heart. With an inescapable diamond loser, that led to one down.

See the difference if dummy’s club eight is played at trick one instead of an honor. On a club continuation, declarer ruffs away East’s ace, then draws trump, ensuring that a trump entry remains in dummy. Next comes the diamond ace and king, and when diamonds prove to break 3-2, dummy is entered with a trump for a heart discard on the winning club. Finally, one more round of diamonds sets up that suit. Should diamonds break 4-1 or worse, then you can cross to dummy with a trump for a diamond discard on the club queen. Now comes a heart, and if the ace is with East, the game makes.

Note also that if at trick one East overtakes the club jack with the ace and fires a heart through, dummy’s club king and queen will provide parking places for South’s two small diamonds.


Your partner's twospade call in competition guarantees four-card trump support and suggests, if not extras, at least something better than a minimum in terms of shape or high-cards. You can assume a singleton diamond opposite, and with something better than a minimum yourself, it seems reasonable to compete to three spades.

BID WITH THE ACES

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

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 4th, 2014

To take command, one must first create the illusion that command is already yours.

Denise Domning


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

10

As I have often remarked, one cannot persuade one's opponents not to do something just because one earnestly wants them not to do it. If you want to prevent them from making a play, you have to work a little harder at it than that.

Take today’s deal, where South reaches four spades on an unopposed auction, after North’s slightly pushy raise to game. Your partner leads the diamond 10. Declarer plays low from dummy at trick one, you encourage, and declarer takes the diamond ace and advances a low heart, to the heart eight from your partner, and dummy’s 10. Plan the defense.

When declarer leads a heart, partner’s heart eight shows an even number, almost certainly in this case a four-card suit. You must duck this trick, to prevent declarer getting two heart tricks later on.

Of course you don’t want to let declarer get to dummy to lead out the spade queen and capture your king. But since you cannot prevent South from taking the spade finesse sooner or later, you might as well not give him anything in hearts to which he is not entitled.

If you duck trick two, declarer will now take the spade finesse and run his trumps, then exit with the heart queen. However so long as the defense retain their club guard, they can take the heart queen and lead out winning diamonds at every turn. Declarer will eventually have to concede three minor-suit losers to go with the heart ace, for one down.


This auction is always one where declarer will be struggling for tricks (dummy rates to have no more than 6 HCP) and if you had a passive lead, you might well make it. Since you don't, the case for a spade lead is that this rates to be declarer's shortage, and even if you are wrong, spades surely won't be running for declarer.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 9 6 2
 A J 8 5
 8 5
♣ K 5 3
South West North East
1♣
Pass 1♠ Pass 2 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

My take on weak two-bids is moderately disciplined — I like to have two top honors vulnerable, but don't insist on that nonvulnerable. In that context, what is your opinion on the best meaning for the relay response of two no-trump to a weak two; Ogust, or feature-ask — or something else?

Man Friday, Naples, Fla.

If you play disciplined weak-twos, as your letter suggests, a feature ask is best. If your weak twos deliver variable suit qualities, the Ogust Relay (where opener indicates his range and suit quality) may be wiser.

I dealt and passed holding ♠ 10-6-4,  K-7-5,  Q-10-8-5, ♣ Q-8-5. When my LHO opened one club, my partner overcalled one spade and my RHO bid one no-trump. What should I have done now? I elected to pass, and we missed a playable partscore — but I had expected to run into the spades stacked against me.

Chicken, Whiting, Ind.

When your RHO bids one no-trump, he simply shows a spade guard rather than a spade stack. (In fact, with a spade stack he might play for penalties rather than bid.) You may not have a maximum for your two-spade bid, but you have to support with support and let partner take things from there.

I know that in choosing a trump suit, a 4 – 4 split often plays better than a 5 – 3 fit. But which trump split is better, 6 – 2 or 5 – 3?

Eight Is Enough, Kingston, Ontario

It is a little tough to give a general answer here. 6-2 probably gives you more easy tricks (after all a 13-card suit is better than 12 — which is better than 11). But imagine you have eight cards with the three top honors. A 5-3 fit may allow you to find a 4-1 split, then finesse, while with a 6-2 fit, you may find out too late. Equally, when missing the queen, but holding both the jack and 10, with the ace and king split, the 5-3 split offers the chance to take two finesses and protect against the 4-1 break.

How should I respond to my partner’s double of one club when I had ♠ Q-10-7-5,  A-Q-6-5,  9-5, ♣ 10-8-3? I was not sure if I had enough to cue-bid and raise my partner’s major to three. I tried that but I was told that it was an overbid.

Shaky Ground, Memphis, Tenn.

Your partner was right, in that you are about a queen short of a cue-bid. However the right answer is to respond one spade, not one heart. Your plan in further competition would be to bid hearts and let partner choose economically between the majors. This is a rare instance where you would bid the higher four-card suit before the lower.

I play with seven women three or four times a month. My question to you is that I was informed me that it was not proper to ask the scorekeeper the score after the bidding starts. I have played bridge for 50 years and this was a first!

Pearl Jam, Mountain Home, Idaho

For the record, I think everyone should keep score. But yes, one should not remind partner of the score in mid-auction. However, until the cards are picked up, you not only can, but SHOULD remind partner (unless they always remember and an opponent doesn't!).


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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

An honest politician is one who when he's bought, stays bought.

Simon Cameron


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

3

In today's deal from a team game, both North-South pairs stretched to a very poor game, when North hoped that their spade suit would provide significantly more tricks than it actually did. Plan the play on a low diamond lead.

Things look pretty hopeless, don’t they? Playing for hearts to be 3-3 needs a lot more to work than just that. For example, if diamonds are 5-2 and West can get the lead with the second round of hearts, you will go down. Even if diamonds don’t defeat you, you still need the club queen to drop before you have nine tricks.

In one room declarer followed a line that relied on a misdefense, which didn’t happen. However, in the other room, South played for the layout that actually occurred and found his way home.

At trick two he crossed to dummy with the spade ace and played a heart toward his hand, realizing when East followed low that it would not help him to find the heart 10 right; only the king-queen onside would do. When his heart jack held, he continued with the heart ace and another heart. When West showed out, declarer’s main chance in hearts had gone. But the 5-1 spade break was a curiously favorable outcome. With the club queen dropping in two rounds, it meant that the defenders could take no more than two hearts, one diamond and one spade. If the defenders had set up dummy’s spade winner, declarer would have come to a different nine tricks.


The simple approach is to raise to two no-trump here. Never bid three no-trump on this auction unless you have extra playing strength in the form of solid hearts. Another option that is well worth considering is to mark time with a call of two clubs, planning to rebid no-trump over a minimum response or to raise diamonds. But the simple raise of no-trump looks better.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 4 3
 A J 9 4 3
 K Q J
♣ A K 8
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 1st, 2014

You will send a foreign Minister, whoever he may be, naked into the conference chamber.

Aneurin Bevin


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

♠K

It was a sad loss to the world of bridge when Giorgio Belladonna died nearly 20 years ago. As a part of the legendary Italian Blue Team, he had 13 World Teams wins and three Olympiad victories to his credit. Belladonna is best remembered for deals like today’s – which has been referred to as the “Striptease Coup”.

Playing South, Belladonna ended in five clubs, against which West led the spade king. Now it looks as though declarer was facing three losers. South won in hand, cashed the diamond queen, and crossed to the heart 10 with the intention of discarding his losing spade on a top diamond. East ruffed with his club two, and South overruffed. Next he tried the hearts, again hoping to discard dummy’s losing spade. No joy, as the third round of hearts was ruffed by West with the club eight and overruffed on the table.

So far so bad; and when dummy’s last top diamond, the king, was led, ruffed low and overruffed, declarer still had a losing spade in each hand. But the good news was that the defenders had now used up all of their small trumps. The consequence was that one of declarer’s trump losers had evaporated, and now the diamond ace and king fell on the same trick — contract made. At the other table the contract was four hearts. This failed after a spade lead, when declarer tried to establish his clubs and lost trump control.


This is a forcing auction, and your choice appears to be to raise hearts or repeat diamonds. I'd expect your hand to be somewhat useful to your partner in hearts (an ace-king cannot be wholly bad news) and so I'd settle for the simple raise rather than the rebid. If there is a game, partner will be well-placed to work out which.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 10 2
 10 7
 A K 7 6 5 4
♣ 9 7 6
South West North East
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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Ah! What avails the classic bent
And what the cultured word
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?

Rudyard Kipling


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

*Limit raise with four trumps

8

Against South's four spades, reached after North had shown a good hand with four trumps while South had temporized with a three-heart call, which simply marked time rather than guaranteeing four hearts, West led his singleton diamond. East, who had shown his diamonds in the auction, played the king, ace, then six of diamonds, declarer contributing the four and jack, then pitching the club nine. What do you plan to lead to trick four?

This is a trick question, of course. You do not plan to be on lead to trick four, since there is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost by ruffing in on this trick. You would be ruffing with your trump trick, and declarer would later be able to discard a second club loser on dummy’s diamond queen. Effectively, you are ruffing in on air with your trump trick and letting declarer use his winner later on. By discarding a club on this trick, you allow declarer to take a discard — but you could never have stopped him from doing that whatever you did.

The point is that if you save your trump trick for when it matters, your side will later come to both a club and a trump trick. And note that if declarer does have four hearts and two clubs, nothing you do matters.

Incidentally, East might well have guessed to shift to a club at trick two to protect against just this eventuality; but that is no reason for you to misdefend.


The choice is between the simple rebids of one spade and one no-trump. I don't feel strongly about this — though I suspect if my heart queen were the club queen, I'd feel much happier about bidding one no-trump. The advantage of bidding spades is that if this is a partscore deal, you have got your shape across at a low level. The advantage of bidding one no-trump is that you limit your hand.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 9 8 3
 A Q
 Q 5 3 2
♣ A 7 3
South West North East
1 Pass 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.