Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 27th, 2015

The old know what they want; the young are sad and bewildered.

Logan Pearsall Smith


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

10

The central idea on the deal below is one that has been around for a while, but I think it deserves another airing.

Imagine you play three no-trump, on the predictable lead of the heart 10 to dummy’s king. It is hard to see much prospect of making your game if you cannot get the diamonds going, so you lead a diamond to your king, which holds. So far so good – but what next?

I suspect the majority of declarers would cross to a club in dummy and play a second diamond. If East gets it right he will hop up with his ace and clear the hearts. Now declarer has no entry to dummy’s fourth diamond and only has eight tricks. Whenever he gives up the lead, defenders will cash three hearts to put the contract down one.

Instead declarer must rely on the hearts being 5-4 (as they are heavy favorite to be) and should cross to dummy with a heart at trick three to lead a second diamond. The point is that he has to keep the club king as the entry to cash the long diamond, after East has played the diamond ace on the second round of diamonds, and temporarily blocked that suit for declarer.

The difference is that the defenders can cash three hearts, but now the diamonds play for three tricks; the point being that the club king can no longer be dislodged from dummy as the eventual entry to enjoy the long diamond.


The modern style (which I certainly would not insist you play) is to use all jump raises facing an opening or overcall in competition as shapely, not based on an invitation in high cards. But I would not bid three hearts here at any vulnerability. You are not just weak with a square distribution, you have all your assets – such as they are – in the side suits. A simple raise to two hearts should more than suffice.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 7 4
 10 9 8 4
 J 9 3
♣ Q 10 3
South West North East
  1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 26th, 2015

You have to keep a watch on the Swiss.

Anonymous


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

♠8

In important events these days you can watch the experts on the internet, but you can also attend the tournament and watch them play live on close-circuit TV, with commentators watching the players’ every move.

Today’s deal was played under just such conditions 50 years ago by Montreal expert Sam Gold. He was able to outplay the analysts, who of course could see all four hands.

Gold had done well in the auction, since he reached a vulnerable game with decent chances rather than trying for a penalty double of two spades, a contract that is hard to defeat by more than one trick, even after a trump lead. But while Gold was planning his play in three no-trumps, the commentators said that finding the right line to bring home nine tricks would be beyond most people. But Sam proved them wrong.

After winning dummy’s spade ace, a low diamond went to East’s ace, more or less confirming him to have singletons in each red suit. East returned the spade jack to Gold’s queen, and Sam next ran the diamond 10 through West. When this held the trick, a diamond was led to the king, and the heart ace cashed, removing East’s lone heart.

Now Gold came back to his hand with a top club, and took his master diamond for his seventh trick. When he exited with a high spade, East could score his three remaining spades, but then had to lead into the club tenace in dummy and concede nine tricks.


You have a choice here. You can simply raise to two hearts, a relatively wide-ranging action in competition, or you can double for take-out. With three hearts and limited values, I think I will settle for the raise. Switch the hearts and clubs and the double stands out, and equally, with an extra king, doubling gets the high cards across nicely.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 9 7 4
 Q 9 3
 Q 10 9 2
♣ K 8
South West North East
  1♣ 1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

From recovery to rags and rags to recovery symbolizes art — a perfect compilation of human imperfections.

Chris Jami


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

*A minor-suit preempt

♣8

While North-South would have made four hearts here, pre-emptive action by their opponents steered South to a contract where he needed a little help from the defense.

When West showed a long broken minor at his first turn, East took the advance sacrifice in five clubs. South was jockeyed by the vulnerability into trying for the diamond game rather than defending, and collecting 500.

West led the club eight, and South won East’s queen with his ace. Next he crossed to the spade king, and led the diamond queen to the king and ace. The 4-0 trump break was bad news. It looked as though, unless the heart finesse was right, there would surely be at least three losers in the form of two hearts and a trump.

But from the bidding it seemed very likely that the heart finesse was wrong, so South tried a different tactic. He cashed the spade queen, and crossed to dummy with the heart ace. Then he cashed the third top spade, discarding a heart, and ruffed dummy’s last club. Finally came a low heart from hand. West had made an expensive, if pardonable mistake earlier on, because he had followed to the first heart lead with his two.

As a consequence he was left on lead with his heart jack, and was obliged to concede a ruff and discard. One of declarer’s hearts from hand went away, as the club was ruffed in dummy, and the game was home.


Despite the two aces I’m not sure I want to defend here. Immediate action suggests a minimum hand and a minimum in high cards and defense, so I guess I would bid two diamonds. (Yes, if you pass and partner doubles now, you might elect to defend, but you may not be able to describe your hand accurately if he does anything else.)

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 5
 9 7 6 4
 A J 10 5 4 2
♣ A
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl. 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

William Blake


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

J

When you bid them up you have to play them well. A pushy bidding sequence (North is really worth no more than an invitation to game) saw South arrive in four spades, against which West led the diamond jack.

Declarer rose with dummy’s ace then ran the spade jack, which held. East did well to break the rules by not covering, as the chances of West having the spade 10 was relatively low. A finesse of the trump queen was also successful, and declarer pulled East’s last trump before leading a club to dummy’s king. However, he now had no convenient way to exit dummy.

He tried a heart to the queen, but West took the king then played a diamond to East’s queen. East played the heart jack, ducked by declarer, then astutely returned a club for West to take with the ace – on any other return South’s club loser vanishes on the 13th heart.

Having won the diamond lead South should have played the spade jack, and have overtaken with the queen, then led a club towards dummy. If West ducks, the king wins, and another spade finesse puts South back in hand, ready to lead another club, after cashing the trump ace.

The best West can do is duck smoothly, but declarer has no real option but to go up with the queen, hoping that the ace is onside. Assuming he does so, he will mae his contract in comfort.


An easy one this morning. Rather than rebid a five-card club suit, however chunky it might appear, it is almost always better to rebid one no-trump, and since you do have a quasi-balanced minimum with stoppers in both red suits, that shouldn’t be too painful. And just for the record, a call of two hearts is a reverse, since it forces partner to the three-level to give preference to clubs, and shows 17+ with this shape.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 6
 A 8 6 4
 A 7
♣ K Q 9 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Judge not according to the appearance.

The book of John


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

K

Sometimes a slam will be easy to play, while at other times things do not quite work out as planned. Here when West overcalls in diamonds, North stretches a little to show his diamond shortage, and South guesses to bid slam in competition.

When West leads the diamond king against your six hearts it appears you have an easy route to 12 tricks. You ruff the lead, and opt for simplicity, when you play the heart king and jack, expecting to take five trump tricks, six clubs and one spade in due course. But when you play the second top trump from dummy, East shows out. What now?

Clearly if you draw trumps the defenders will be ready to cash out the diamonds when they get in with the spade ace. If you play a spade toward your king, you will survive if East has the spade ace. But as the cards lie today, West will win and return a diamond, and the hand falls to pieces, since you can no longer draw trump.

The solution is easy when you see it, though. What you must do is to lead the spade queen from dummy at trick four. If it holds, draw trumps and run for home with one spade trick, five hearts, and six club winners. Meanwhile if the spade queen loses to the ace, and West plays another diamond, you ruff and can cross to your spade king to draw the last trumps.


Since you have raised diamonds, and are relatively unlikely to hold two small cards in that suit, it feels right to lead the seven. By suggesting no honor in that suit, you make it easier for your partner not only to prevent declarer sneaking through a singleton honor, but also to find a shift if necessary.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ 9 7 5 4
 A Q 7 3
 7 5 2
♣ J 6
South West North East
    2 Dbl.
3 Dbl. 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Could you give me your instinctive reaction as to whether, or when, defenders ought to signal their length in the suit declarer is playing on? I have encountered partners who insist on being given such information, and those who claim to know better than me what is in my hand.

Helping Hans, Lorain, Ohio

My feeling is that while one must give count when helping partner work out when to win or duck an honor, those situations are the exceptions. And one tends to know them when one sees them without needing to make a firm agreement on when to give count. The weaker the declarer, the more inclined you should be to give count. And the weaker your partner, the less information you should give him; he will not notice anyway!

In third seat I held: ♠ A-Q-7-3,  Q-8-6-5-3,  2, ♣ Q-10-2. I responded one heart to my partner’s one diamond opening bid. When he raised to two hearts was I supposed to invite game by bidding three hearts? I can see arguments for doing both more or less!

Levelling Out, Casper, Wyo.

The hand is not good enough to drive to game, but passing seems a little tame. Rather than pass the buck to partner with a call of three hearts, you might bid two spades. That suggests this sort of hand-pattern, and lets partner look at his cards and evaluate his range and degree of fit.

What is your view on concealing a four-card spade suit in response to a one heart opening bid? Under what circumstances might this be acceptable?

Rose Red, Tempe, Ariz.

I assume you do not play Flannery (a two-diamond or two-heart opening to show four spades and five hearts) when a response of one spade would almost guarantee five. You should not bid a four-card spade suit when you have three hearts, in any range up to a limit bid, since otherwise when you support hearts, your partner will expect you to have a doubleton heart.

I assume you would not open this 11-count in first or second seat: ♠ A-9-4,  J-3,  K-J-7-2, ♣ Q-9-5-3? What about in third or fourth seat? And would the vulnerability affect your decision?

Quicksilver, Nashville, Tenn.

I see no reason to open in first or second seat. But in third seat a one diamond lead directing opening bid seems to make reasonable sense – at any vulnerability.

Several of our bridge group are elderly and reneges do happen from time to time. Would you list the different possibilities for penalties after a renege happens?

Slippery Sam, Durango, Colo.

If you did not take the trick and your side won no others, there is no penalty. If you took the revoke trick and no others, the penalty is one trick. If you did not take the trick but subsequently won one or more tricks, then the penalty is one trick. If you won the revoke trick with the illegally played card, (typically by trumping or overtrumping in error) AND your side won a subsequent trick, the penalty is two tricks. A tournament director may always adjust the score if equity has not been restored by the penalty.


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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 21st, 2015

I am a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a pita. Why the pita? That counts as another mystery.

Demetri Martin


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

♣3

In his team’s loss to the Monaco team at the Vanderbilt tournament last spring, Jeff Aker confronted his world champion opponent with an interesting problem. Have a look at the West cards, and see how you would have dealt with it?

Your low club lead goes to the eight and declarer’s queen. At trick two, the heart king appears on the table. Make a play, and a plan. Would you win or duck – and what will you do next?

At the table, West ducked the heart king, then won the next heart as East discarded the club jack. West next led a low club. Declarer ducked the trick, won the next club, then cashed the diamond ace and diamond queen, followed by the top two spades, and put West on lead with a heart.

At this point West could cash his heart and club winners, but then had to give dummy the lead. That meant nine tricks for declarer: three diamonds and two winners in each of the other suits.

The key to the defense is that West has to see the endplay looming. He must win the second heart and cash the heart ace before exiting in clubs. Then he cannot be subsequently endplayed in hearts. This is particularly hard to see, since it appears that you are building tricks for declarer, but if the diamond king is an entry to dummy you will not prevent declarer establishing the hearts.


Your partner’s double is take-out, but does not guarantee perfect shape — he might have only two diamonds or be 3-3 in the red-suits. Still, you do not want to select clubs and miss an eight-card fit. I would bid two no-trumps as a scramble rather than as an attempt to play there, expecting partner to pick his better minor in context. I can then correct three clubs to three diamonds to let him pick a red suit.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 5 4 2
 J 10 9 7
 K 6 5 3
♣ 7 4
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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 20th, 2015

In a serious struggle there is no worse cruelty than to be magnanimous at an inopportune time.

Leon Trotsky


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

♠2

Vlad Isporski (a regular player and also non-playing captain on the Bulgarian national team) spotted the winning line in five diamonds. Yes, three no-trump would have been far less dramatic, but who cares about efficiency when we can have the aesthetic delight of a squeeze?

Isporski told me that East had implied good values and a spade suit. In five diamonds, you get a spade lead and observe that if the diamond queen doesn’t fall you need something good to happen in hearts.

You win the spade ace, cash the club ace and club queen then lead a heart from dummy. East wins the heart queen and is endplayed. He has nothing better to do than exit with the spade king, and you ruff, cash the top diamonds (both follow but no queen appears) then lead a third club.

East must discard rather than ruff in. so you win the club king, cash the spade queen, and have now reached a four-card ending — three spades, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs having been played.

When you ruff the club seven in dummy, East is squeezed in three suits, one of which is trumps. If he overruffs, he can lead a heart and surrender his trick there, or play a spade for a ruff-sluff and let you discard your heart loser.

So East must discard, but pitching a heart will unguard his king, while letting a spade go allows him to be endplayed with a trump to lead hearts at trick 12.


The general rule in responding to one club is to bid majors first on any hand that is invitational or weaker in strength. But with any game-force you should bid your suits in their natural order. So here, with such good diamonds and relatively weak hearts, you do not want to distort your hand by bidding your weaker and shorter suit first. Respond one diamond.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ A
 A 9 4 2
 A K 7 5 3
♣ Q 6 4
South West North East
    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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 19th, 2015

There are occasions when it is undoubtedly better to incur loss than to make gain.

Plautus


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

*Strong

**8-11 high-card points

♠8

On this deal from a regional knockout at the spring nationals at Dallas last year it might seem a little unfair to write up the only board on which Ishmael Del’Monte’s team lost IMPs. But it did feature outstanding play by the Australian star, who was South on the following deal.

Against six hearts West led the spade eight, suit preference for diamonds. Del’Monte won the spade ace and played a club to dummy’s ace, followed by a heart to the king. Then came a club ruff, the heart ace and heart queen. On the second and third round of trumps, East had to pitch first a diamond then his remaining spade to keep the club king and five diamonds. Now a diamond to the queen brought the bad news for declarer.

A further club ruff brought about a five-card ending where dummy had a losing spade and four diamonds, while declarer had a trump, diamond two losing clubs and a small spade. Since West was down to all spades, Del’Monte could safely exit in that suit. West won and had no choice but to return a spade now, squeezing his partner in the minors! Declarer could ruff and depending on West’s discard, either cash his clubs or take the winning diamonds in dummy.

Beautifully played, but why did Del’Monte’s team lose IMPs? At the other table, North played six hearts doubled on a diamond lead. West got his ruff but declarer claimed 12 tricks in a canter.


I am all for preempting when I have a reasonable excuse, and especially in first seat, which is the ideal moment to put the cat amongst the pigeons. But here you have no excuse to bid, with tricks galore outside your weak long suit. It might work to preempt, but the odds are against it, and you destroy partnership trust that way.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K Q
 9
 J 10 8 6 4 2
♣ K 10 7 4
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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

There are always loose ends in real life.

Robert Galbraith


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

*Two-plus cards

2

The problem with being given a play or defend hand is that you are automatically put on notice to bring your ‘A’ game. Well, you have been warned!

At the table, during the Dallas spring nationals, can you spot the best line to make the optimistic contract of six hearts after a diamond lead? Would you play a round of trumps or do something else?

Best is to ruff a diamond with the trump ace at once, then draw a round of trumps with the king. If they split, you will cash the spade ace, draw trumps in three rounds ending in dummy, and take the spade finesse.

But trumps are 4-0; West having four. So you lead a club to the queen, forcing an entry to dummy in that suit. You then ruff a second diamond with a high trump, draw trumps ending in dummy, and now run the spade jack. This ensures the contract against five-one spades when West has a small singleton.

As declarer discovered to his cost at the table, if you play to ruff a club in dummy you cannot draw all the trumps before playing on spades, and West can ruff in on the second spade. (And even if West was 2-4-5-2 he could discard his second spade on the third club).

For the record: if you play a heart to your hand at trick two the contract becomes unmakeable — and a low club opening lead beats the contract by force.


When you have opened on skinny values and are facing a passed hand, there is always a temptation to pass partner’s response. Here the attractions of doing so are that you have a reasonable fit and are not especially worried about keeping the opponents out. You have the other major under control, so simply pass and hope to stay low.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ J 9 5
 J 8 6 3
 A J 10 7
♣ K Q
South West North East
    Pass 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.