Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

You have said that third and fifth leads are easier to read than fourth best leads. Why? So many of us struggle with this!

Train Spotter, Memphis, Tenn.

When playing fourth highest leads, say your partner leads the two in a bid and supported suit. With the missing cards Q 7 4 at the end of the first trick, your partner could have led from Q-7-4-2, Q-7-2, Q-4-2, or 7-4-2 (unless you’d lead the seven here). Declarer may or may not have another card. But the lead of the two in third and fifth leads marks partner with only three cards, so declarer must have one more card. Third and fifth leads do not always solve the count problem, but they do so more often than not.

A hand in a recent column befuddled me. You have four highcard points with a six-card diamond suit, when partner opened a strong no-trump. My first thought was to pass, but then I decided to let my partner know about my diamond suit. Why did you bid two notrump not two diamonds to do that – I would think I would need seven or eight points for such an action?

Unsuitable, Columbia, S.C.

In the old days (before transfers) a call of two diamonds would have been fine. These days, with transfers in use, we need a way to escape into diamonds, but the call of two diamonds shows hearts. Methods vary here: some play two no-trump for diamonds, and two spades for clubs, which was what I was suggesting here. Another style is to use two no-trump as natural, with two spades for clubs, three clubs for diamonds. This is equally playable and keeps two no-trump natural.

Holding ♠ 9-7-3, Q-5-2, K-7-3, ♣ K-Q-8-3, what are you supposed to respond to a natural one club opener? Would it matter if you play inverted minor raises here?

First Footer, Billings, Mont.

Whether you play inverted minors or not, this hand does not look ideal for a raise to two clubs, despite your chunky support, since partner might have only three clubs. Respond one notrump, and do not worry excessively about the fact that your spades are weak. If the suit is a danger, you may yet hear from the opponents, or partner may bid again. The fact that you have a balanced hand trumps your honorless suit.

Like many pairs coming into duplicate pairs, I want to ask your advice about defending to one notrump. I find Landy doesn’t let me come in on two-suited hands; do you have any advice?

The Beer Hunter, Wichita Falls, Texas

Your best choices amongst the methods commonly in use in the US are Meckwell, Woolsey, and DONT. Details are available here, and you can choose for yourself. All allow you to get in two-suited hands conveniently while abandoning the penalty double.

Facing a passed partner, my RHO opened one spade. Holding ♠ K-Q-J-7, K, A-10-5-4, ♣ A-10-7-5, I elected to bid one notrump as the least lie. My partner had six clubs to the queen-jack and the diamond king. With the club finesse working, we could make five clubs, but, alas, sold out to three hearts. I would like your comments on how the auction should go.

Honest Abe, Eau Claire, Wis.

I think you made a very reasonable decision here, even if it didn’t work. I’d assume your partner should transfer to clubs or bid the suit in competition – after which you might well raise to at least the four-level and can maybe get to game.


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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.

J. M. Barrie


S North
None ♠ K J 10 5
 Q J 4 3
 Q 5 3 2
♣ 5
West East
♠ 9 8 4
 A 10 8 6
 J 10 8
♣ A J 9
♠ 7 3
 K 9 7 5 2
 K 9 7 6
♣ Q 10
South
♠ A Q 6 2
 —
 A 4
♣ K 8 7 6 4 3 2
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    

J

Against four spades, reached after a slightly aggressive jump raise by North, West leads the diamond jack, covered by the queen and king. What is your plan to make 10 tricks?

The contract requires some friendly breaks. The black suits must break 3-2, and it also requires that the defenders cannot promote a trump by playing on diamonds. The full deal needs to be similar to the layout here.

After winning the diamond ace, if you cross to table to with a trump and lead a club to the king, you will fail in your contract whenever West has the ace, because the defense of repeated red-suit leads will leave you without enough entries to establish the clubs.

A better plan is to rely on clubs being 3-2 and simply to lead a low club out of your hand at trick two. On this layout East will win the trick with the 10 and cash his side’s diamond trick. After trumping the red-suit continuation, ruff a club with dummy’s 10. Then cross back to hand with the queen of spades to ruff a second club with the king, thereby establishing the club suit.

Now play dummy’s last trump to your ace, to run the club suit. West can take his nine of trumps whenever he likes, but that will be his side’s last defensive trick. All you will lose is a trump, a diamond and a club. You managed to create a trump loser, but saved yourself two entries to hand in the process.


Just because you only have a nine-count you don’t have to go low with a raise to two spades. Your partner could easily have enough for game and not have rebid more than one spade. Your diamond fit is golden. If partner had opened one club, as in today’s deal, a simple raise to two spades would suffice here.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K J 10 5
 Q J 4 3
 Q 5 3 2
♣ 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 1st, 2016

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul — and sings the tunes without the words — and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson


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

*Michaels, at least 5-5 in the majors

♠K

Against six diamonds West leads the spade king, and East signals an odd number of spades. At trick two, West shift to the heart queen. What is the best approach to make a 12th trick?

Even if you can find the club queen, you must establish a long club to take care of your slow heart loser. After winning the heart shift in hand with the king and drawing trump, you could cash the club ace in the hope that West has a singleton club queen: if this proved successful you would have the four club tricks you need.

However, if the cards lie as shown in the diagram, the only successful approach here is to win the second trump in dummy (and when West shows out the singleton club queen becomes less likely) then lead the club jack. East can do no better than cover it with his queen.

You will then win the club ace, lead the club four to the 10, followed by the club two, to finesse the six. The play will be equivalent if East ducks the first club.

As West will by now be marked with an original with 5-5-1-2 shape, you will know to finesse on the third round of clubs. This line produces a fourth club trick whenever West started with a doubleton such as: 9-8, 9-7 or 8-7.

Note that there is no point in playing West for a doubleton club queen. While you would not have a club loser, you would still have one in hearts.


You may have only a 10-count but with your honors packed into your two suits, and an easy rebid, this is a sound if minimum opener. The intermediates are also relevant to this valuation – this hand has far more playing strength than a balanced 12-count.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A K 10 6 3
 Q J 10 8 5
 4
♣ 8 7
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Let us have a quiet hour,
Let us hob-and-nob with Death.

Lord Tennyson


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

*Spades

**Natural and invitation

Q

In today’s deal you might consider what you would lead as West after the given sequence to six no-trump. Your knowledge of the bad break in spades would normally suggest a passive opening lead (a heart or club, to taste). If you were looking at a spade holding such as jack-third, you might well go for an aggressive choice. In general, any time the opponents follow a quantitative auction to game or slam, you try to judge whether the cards lie well or badly. The worse they lie, the more passive your defensive strategy should be.

Be that as it may, at the table, West chose a top diamond and was soon taught a sharp lesson. Declarer won the diamond ace and played a diamond straight back. West put up his nine, so declarer took dummy’s king and led another diamond, to build the 10 into a trick. West took his jack, and exited with a passive fourth diamond, instead of a heart, which might perhaps have given the defenders a chance.

Declarer won the diamond 10, then cashed his top spades to discover the bad news. Next he played a club to dummy’s queen and took dummy’s spade winners, pitching hearts from hand. Meanwhile, East kept his clubs, so had to bare his heart king.

When declarer came to hand with a club to the ace, and cashed his remaining club winner West also had to throw a heart, to preserve his spade winner. Declarer discarded the spade from dummy and the heart seven took trick 13.


The basic nature of your hand is limited and balanced with a minimum high card point-count for an opener. The best way to show this at once is to rebid two no-trump. I would not worry unduly about making this rebid with a doubleton queen in an unbid suit; it is more likely that you have to right-side no-trump from your hand than that clubs will be a fatally unguarded suit.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q J 5 4 2
 A 7 4
 K 8 2
♣ Q 8
South West North East
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.

Sir Walter Scott


E North
None ♠ 5 4 2
 Q 4 3
 A 10 6
♣ A 7 3 2
West East
♠ 10 9 6
 8 7 5
 J 9 8 7 5 4
♣ 6
♠ K Q J 8 7 3
 6 2
 2
♣ J 10 5 4
South
♠ A
 A K J 10 9
 K Q 3
♣ K Q 9 8
South West North East
      2 ♠
Dbl. Pass 3 ♣* Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4 NT Pass 5 ♠* Pass
7 NT All pass    

*Invitational

**Two key cards and the trump queen

♠10

Today’s deal saw South double a weak two and North respond three clubs, natural invitational and value showing. With a weaker hand North would have bid two no-trump as a puppet to three clubs, planning to pass with long clubs or correct to his long red suit if he had one. This convention is known as Lebensohl and originally applied only after a one no-trump opener, but has had its use extended to today’s sequence.

After this start South bid his hearts, used keycard when his partner cooperated for that suit, and drove to seven no-trump, knowing he rated to be able to claim the contract at trick one.

As it turned out though, when dummy went down with surprisingly weak clubs, the contract required careful play. It looks obvious to play West, the non-preempter, for long clubs, but South went the extra mile. He won the spade lead, cashed the top hearts, pitching spades from dummy, and now made the key play of the diamond king and queen. Had both hands followed, declarer would have started clubs by leading a top honor from hand. When East discarded on the second diamond he was almost sure to have begun with precisely 6=2=1=4 pattern. So declarer led a club to the ace and back towards his hand, putting in the nine when East played low. Had East split his honors, it would have been easy to cross back to the diamond ace to take the marked club finesse.


Facing a balanced minimum hand it is undeniably possible that your side might make game. This will happen no more than one time in 10 perhaps, since you are offering your partner no source of tricks and just a 10 count. That being so, respond one notrump rather than raising clubs by using an inverted minor response. Do not jeopardize your plus score in search of the pot of gold.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 5 4 2
 Q 4 3
 A 10 6
♣ A 7 3 2
South West North East
  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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

That monkeys once were men, peers, statesmen, flunkies —
That’s rather hard on unoffending monkeys!

W. S. Gilbert


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

♠10

The annual House of Lords versus the House of Commons match features a contest between talented amateurs. As you might expect, the quality of bridge is mixed. But some of the deals have been pre-selected, to give the players the opportunity to shine by demonstrating good technique, knowledge of the laws of probability, or even by revealing sound partnership understandings. It was into that latter class that today’s deal fell.

All roads would seem to lead to three no-trump here, probably via a two no-trump opening. West has a natural lead of the spade 10, especially as no attempt was made to locate a major suit fit. Declarer can count on seven sure tricks – five in clubs and two in spades. Should he put up the spade jack?

Yes indeed; if dummy’s jack holds the first trick, there will be no problem in setting up a trick in diamonds for the ninth trick. But the jack loses to the queen, and declarer wins the king. The natural suit for declarer to turn to is diamonds, and here is where the defenders have to be on their toes. When South advances the diamond king, West must duck. And East must signal his distribution clearly, by following with the seven, suggesting an even number, so that West knows to take his ace at his next turn. The point is that if East has two diamonds, South has four, and a second hold-up would be pointless. If East has four, winning the second diamond trick holds South to just one trick in the suit.


Since introducing a three-card major is verboten, do you respond one no-trump or two clubs? In favor of bidding notrump is that partner will have the majors but may not have real club length, against it is that this call should show 7-10 or so. Your hand surely does not qualify in that category. I go for the suit bid, more because I want partner to be able to trust me the next time I bid no-trump here.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 4
 J 8 7
 Q J 10 3
♣ 7 5 4 3
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 27th, 2016

‘If one approaches a problem with order and method, there should be no difficulty in solving it — none whatever,’ said Poirot severely. ‘Oh, I see,’ said Jane, who didn’t.

Agatha Christie


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

♠3

In today’s contract, declarer had bid the hand intelligently to the right contract, but when dummy came down he thought the route to nine tricks was a safe one. Unfortunately for him, he tackled his suits in the wrong order, and so he failed in his mission.

Against three no-trump West led the spade three and South appreciated that nine tricks were easily available – in addition to the four top tricks in the majors, four extra tricks could very likely be developed in diamonds and one further trick in clubs.

So on winning the opening lead with dummy’s spade ace, declarer called for a diamond. East won, and returned a spade. The jack lost, and South was forced to win the spade continuation. When the club finesse also lost, the game was sunk.

If declarer had appreciated that spades could not be continued to advantage from the West hand, he would have taken the club finesse at trick two. It loses, but no return by West is damaging. Say a heart comes back. Best is to play low from dummy, win the jack with the ace, then set about diamonds. Now, so long as diamond break no worse than 3-1, (when the defenders could duck the diamond ace three times) nine tricks are there.

Once again, it would have paid to make a detailed plan when dummy went down. As declarer you have every right to take your time to do this – even to the extent of discouraging dummy from playing the spade ace until you are ready.


The fact that your partner has not raised diamonds suggests a lead in that suit might be dangerous. While nothing is in the slightest degree attractive, your partner surely has some club length. So without any confidence I’ll lead a low club, and try to find a way not to blow more than one trick for our side.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 9 4 3
 J 4
 Q 10 7 2
♣ Q 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT
2 Pass Pass 2
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, June 26th, 2016

I played last month with an occasional partner, whom I play with only two or three times a year. I had ♠ 10-7-3, A-J-6-5-3, Q-8, ♣ K-Q-4 and opened one heart. My left opponent overcalled one spade and my partner bid two diamonds, over which the next opponent passed. Should I have passed? If not what would be my call?

Wicked Witch, Jersey City, N.J.

New suits by responder as an unpassed hand are forcing, but not by a passed hand of course. So you cannot pass here even if you want to. Your choice is to raise diamonds, rebid hearts, bid no-trump or bid three clubs, all of which are seriously flawed. I’d opt for rebidding the hearts, but with jack-third of spades that might be the least lie, I suppose. There is nothing good here, but try to make your choice as smoothly as you can. The cheaper the call the less committal it rates to be.

Can you comment on how to use Gerber after a suit opening bid? When should the call of four clubs be ace-asking and when a cuebid?

Lip Syncher, Anchorage, Alaska

I think four clubs Gerber is a fine bid in its place – but its place is not in the middle of suit auctions. These days I do play a form of ace asking after a Stayman response to one no-trump finds a major-suit fit. By and large, though, I normally just use the call over openings or rebids of one no-trump. The reason is that cuebidding is too important to lose, and four notrump is rarely too expensive an enquiry – if used with discretion.

Is there any circumstance under which the opening hand could open with a suit which has only two of the suit bid? One of our bridge four said yes. I emphatically disagree.

Flora and Fauna, Panama City, Fla.

The question really relates to a one club opener in a 4-4-3-2 pattern with three diamonds. Partnership agreement varies here. I say one diamond is the Standard American opener, but I can see both sides of this coin. If you believe one diamond always delivers four you have to lie one way or the other; and does it matter in the long run? Probably not. A hand in the 1214/18-19 range with this pattern is sufficiently rare you can pretend it never happens!

I dealt myself the following hand ♠ 4, K-9-7-6-5-3-2, 8-5, ♣ A-10-8. Vulnerable I elected to open the bidding with two hearts because my suit was so weak. When my left hand opponent overcalled two spades, my partner doubled. What should I have done?

Covering the Spread, Mitchell, S.D.

You defined your hand precisely by your opening bid, so your partner’s double should be out-and-out penalties. You have an ace and a king, and nothing to be ashamed of, so you should pass happily enough. You may not beat the contract, but that really will not be your fault.

I play bridge with an expert who insists that a two over one response should always show five. She will bid a forcing no-trump even with extras over and above a minimum two over one. I think she’s wrong but I wanted to know what you think.

Overloaded, El Paso, Texas

In Standard American the forcing no-trump does cover a multitude of sins, and I can even understand making the call with a hand in the 13-14 range with no long suit to bid. But in my view the two-level responses do not guarantee five cards in the bid suit. And when you have a good hand don’t fool partner by making him think you are limited. Bid as naturally as you can, and if necessary lie with a two club response when all else fails.


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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 25th, 2016

What! Wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?

William Shakespeare


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

♣K

Today’s deal from the qualifying segment of the European Senior Teams saw two nice endplays. In one case North declared four spades. On the lead of the heart three, declarer Gunnar Elmroth jumped up with the ace and continued with the heart queen, taking a successful ruffing finesse to discard a club. The heart jack followed, and West ducked again so declarer’s last club was discarded. East ruffed in and switched to a diamond, letting West win the diamond king and try to cash the club ace. Declarer ruffed, played a trump to the queen, and ruffed a club. Then he cashed the spade ace to discover he had a sure trump loser. When he crossed to dummy with a diamond to the ace and led a diamond from dummy, West could only discard. Declarer took his queen to play another diamond, throwing West in to collect two tricks from the spade tenace. Contract made.

In the other room David Kendrick received the club king lead against four hearts. A trump went round to declarer’s nine, who then cashed the heart ace and played the queen, putting West back on lead with the king. West cashed the club ace and returned his last club to declarer’s queen.

Kendrick next cashed the diamond ace and ran all his hearts, and the last trump squeezed West in spades and diamonds. When that player kept the diamond king, declarer could simply overtake the spade queen with the king to claim his 10 tricks for a push. West had needed to play back a spade earlier on to break up declarer’s squeeze.


Traditionally the response of two no-trump to a weak two bid asks for features, and while an ace or king is the desirable holding, queen-fourth (or even queen-third) will do at a pinch. You have enough to drive to game, of course, but who is to say where partner is heading? Don’t cross him up by jumping to game, when slam might be in the picture: bid three diamonds.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A K 10 8 7 6
 5
 Q 6 5 3
♣ 10 9
South West North East
2 ♠ Pass 2 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 24th, 2016

We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.

Hunter S. Thompson


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

*13-15

4

Have a look at today’s problem, from the 2015 European Open Championships. When the diamond four was led against six no-trump, declarer tried to preserve his entry to hand by rising with dummy’s ace. Whether or not this was right in theory, when East followed with the jack, declarer may have started to regret his decision.

Declarer next cashed the clubs, learning West had begun with one and East with four. West discarded two diamonds and two hearts, East threw a spade. On the run of the spades declarer discovered that West had started with two and East with five.

In the four-card ending as South cashed dummy’s last spade he had to decide if it was East or West held the heart ace. If the former, South should pitch a diamond from hand and play a heart to the king. If West had the heart ace, South had to discard a heart from hand and throw West in with a heart, forcing that player to lead into the diamond tenace.

So who has the heart ace and why? Well, assuming East is a competent defender he would not have discarded a spade on the fifth club if he had the heart ace. That way he could have defeated the contract by retaining his spade winner for the three-card ending. So West is favorite to hold the heart ace.

Richard Ritmeijer for team Orange Red declared six no-trump and found the winning play in the four-card ending. This was only a small pick-up, though, since his opponents had bid and made six clubs.


When dealing with very strong hands, your rebid may be affected by whether your partner’s response has improved your hand or made it worse. Here your partner bidding your shortage has made your hand worse not better. Settle for a simple call of one spade – you can show your extras at your next turn, if any.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q 10 7
 6
 A 10 7
♣ A K J 8 5
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.