Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 20th, 2019

I know that my one-level overcalls should be on five-card suits or longer, but I have seen you recommend the action of overcalling with only four on occasion. And what about two-level overcalls — would you say five-card suits, as opposed to six-, are the exception, not the rule?

Short Shrift, New Haven, Conn.

Four-card suit overcalls at the one-level are rare. Bidding a strong four-carder with opening values may occur when you can’t double because of a shortage in an unbid major and the hand isn’t suitable for a one-no-trump call. Don’t overcall on a bad suit at the two-level, but sometimes your values require you to bid with only five and a reasonable suit in a strong hand when nothing else will do.

Holding ♠ A-J-2,  K-9-6,  Q-10-7-4, ♣ 10-6-3, I decided to raise my partner’s one-spade opener to two (suggesting 7-10 in our style, as we play forcing no-trump). Do you agree? After my partner tries for game with a call of three clubs, what do you recommend?

King Creole, Selma, Ala.

I like the simple raise. Now you can assume your partner has made a game-try suggesting three or four clubs in a suit where he needs help. Your club suit is as bad as it could be, but you have a maximum hand in high cards and decent spot cards. Maybe you could try three no-trump to suggest these values and let partner decide what to do next.

If you open a minor suit and your partner responds with one no-trump, are you allowed to invite to two no-trump with a good 16-count, or do you have to pass? What is the minimum you need to bid two no-trump, or even three no-trump?

Simple Simon, Vero Beach, Fla.

A jump to three no-trump suggests either a 19-count or a running minor and no shortage (since a jump to three in a new suit would be a self-agreeing splinter here). With an unbalanced 16-17 or a balanced 18, you can raise to two no-trump instead. You may be single-suited or have a 5-4 shape with a second suit you no longer feel like you need to introduce.

I was in third seat with ♠ 9-2,  K-Q-6-4-3,  A-7-4, ♣ 10-3-2, playing teams, and I heard my partner open three diamonds at favorable vulnerability. What is the right tactical approach in situations like this, playing with a relatively aggressive pre-empter?

Movers and Shakers, Riverside, Calif.

To give your opponents the hardest problem, you can jump to five diamonds, fortified by the knowledge that partner could have pre-empted to two diamonds but chose to do more. After a club pre-empt, you would not have quite as much confidence. Make them guess!

I dealt myself ♠ A-J-10-2,  A-K-7,  4, ♣ Q-10-6-3-2, and opened one club. When I heard one diamond from my partner, I bid one spade, of course, and was given preference to two clubs. How much more would I need to bid on, and if I do act, how should I proceed?

Spare Change, Pueblo, Colo.

You have a nice hand, but your second action (one spade instead of one no-trump) suggests an unbalanced or semi-balanced hand, and your partner could have invited to three clubs easily enough. So I would surely pass, but I would not need much more in the club suit (say K-J-10-6-3) to consider bidding on with a call of two hearts, which might suggest a pattern very similar to this one.


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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 19th, 2019

The public … demands certainties … but there are no certainties.

H.L. Mencken


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

*Forcing

♠J

Different partnerships play inverted raises (a system in which the direct raise of a minor in an uncompetitive auction is strong, while a jump raise is weak) in different ways.

South had agreed that the simple raise was forcing as far as three of a minor. Thus, his two-no-trump call was forcing, suggesting 12-14 or 18-plus. When he bid on over three no-trump, he showed the extra values, and North had such weak trumps that he had no reason to choose to play in the suit contract, especially because South could have moved on with a call of four clubs over three no-trump if he had wanted to set clubs as trump. That was a good idea today!

West put the spade jack on the table, and declarer won in hand and led a heart to dummy to advance a low club from that side. When East showed out, declarer saw that his only chance now would be to strip West of all his plain cards and force him to lead clubs at trick 12.

So he cashed his three remaining heart winners, West pitching his fifth club, after which three rounds of diamonds forced a spade out of West. South had a complete count of the West hand now, but when he took his last spade winner, he was locked in dummy, forced to lead a club and concede two of the last three tricks.

Too late, South realized that to make his slam he had needed to win trick one in dummy. Then, in the same three-card ending, he would have been able to lead a low club from hand, and West would have been forced to concede the last two tricks.



This feels like a good hand for hearts, but the issue is whether partner is showing a good hand or merely an invitational one. If you were sure that your partner had a good hand, you could bid three hearts and intend it to be forcing. To me, though, the three-club call sounds non-forcing, so you should just bid four hearts now and avoid accidents.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 9 4
 A J 10
 A Q 3
♣ 10 8 5 2
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 ♠ 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♣ Pass
?      

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact theLoneWolff@bridgeblogging.com. If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 18th, 2019

The rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer; and the vessel of the state is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism.

Percy Shelley


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

*Majors

**Asking for the longer major

♣4

When East upgraded his 14-count into a strong no-trump, South came in to show the majors. He ended up in two spades when North wisely opted to find his partner’s better major and not to invite game. That was sensible enough, since these deals are so much more often about contesting the part-score than about reaching game in the teeth of a strong opening bid.

When West led a diamond against two spades, South flew up with the ace and ruffed a diamond to hand with a high trump (necessary as the cards lay, to preserve a possible entry to dummy) before leading a heart toward the queen. West took his king and shifted to a low club to the jack and ace. Now came a second heart to the nine and 10. Seeing dummy’s weak trump holding, East won and continued with the ace and another heart. That let West score his spade nine, but declarer was able to discard a club from dummy and eventually ruff a club loser on the board for his contract.

It would not have done East any good to continue clubs when in with the second heart, assuming declarer guessed correctly which club to play from hand (not so easy to do).

In fact, though, the only way to beat the game by force is to lead a trump to the first trick. This is often sensible when declarer has shown a two-suiter and you either have a strength in declarer’s second suit or can infer that your partner does, as is the case when he has opened one no-trump.



Your cue-bid shows a limit raise or better in diamonds. That said, you have nothing in reserve, but just enough in hearts to bid two no-trump now. This suggests a hand in the invitational range and is not forcing, which perfectly describes your assets. Let partner make the next decision, if any, as to strain and level.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 8 5 3
 Q 9 6
 A Q 7 5
♣ K 8 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Curfew must not ring tonight.

Rose Hartwick Thorpe


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

Pass

4 ♠ All pass    

K

No one could be more enthusiastic than I about the merits of reading bridge hands in books and especially newspapers (a fact that may not entirely surprise you). However, when you do so, you will often be consciously or subconsciously aware that there is a critical play or kill-point in the deal. At the table, of course, the players may not hear the bell ring to tell them to focus their attention. By the time the bell does ring, it may be for their own funeral.

Consider the contract of four spades here. When West leads the heart king, East gives count by starting an echo, so West continues by leading out his high hearts. Would this seem like a critical moment in the deal to you? It should, since if declarer ruffs the third heart with dummy’s solitary trump, East will over-ruff, and a diamond return means that declarer cannot escape a diamond loser.

As declarer can afford to lose three tricks, it is sensible to retain dummy’s lone trump as an entry to the South hand to allow him to draw trumps. The discard of a minor-suit card from dummy at trick three solves the problem. A further heart lead by West can be ruffed in hand. Trumps will be drawn, and South’s losing diamond vanishes on a club.

Similarly, of course, the defenders cannot profit by shifting to a minor at trick four. After winning the trick in dummy, declarer can draw trumps, following which, once again, the losing diamond can be disposed of on a club.



Yes, your partner may have been dealt two trump tricks and not much else. But it is far more practical to play this double as a decent hand, asking you to decide whether you want to play offense or defense. If so, you must bid on now. A call of four no-trump to suggest the minors and a hand like this will let partner determine the best trump suit and what to bid over further competition.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 8
 8 6
 A 10 7 2
♣ A K Q 7 5 3
South West North East
      1 ♠
2 ♣ 4 ♠ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

A mind quite vacant is a mind distressed.

William Cowper


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

5

After South opens one spade, North should want to drive his side to game. However, a jump to four spades sounds purely pre-emptive (a similar hand with less in diamonds, maybe). Depending on his methods, North might be able to show a side-suit singleton with less than game values, if using a jump to three no-trump as 9-12 with trump support and an as yet undisclosed shortage in a side suit. Or, he could use a call of three no-trump to show a constructive raise to four spades.

Either way, though, South should end up in six spades, and on a diamond lead, the timing of the crossruff may prove to be more than a little inconvenient.

My preferred line is to finesse the diamond queen and ruff away East’s king. Then the club ace and a club ruff followed by the diamond ace will allow South to re-enter hand with the heart ace for a second club ruff. A heart to hand for a third club ruff high lets declarer ruff a diamond high in hand, and a heart in dummy with North’s last top spade.

After 10 tricks (three diamonds, four clubs and three hearts), the lead is in dummy, which has three diamonds left, while declarer still has the A-8-7 of spades. Declarer leads a diamond and ruffs with the spade seven, not caring that West may be able to over-ruff. Even if he can, he will be forced to lead a card back into declarer’s spade tenace, and South will have his 12 tricks.



In second seat, your pre-emptive opening bids should be relatively disciplined. Even when at favorable vulnerability, I would not want to open two diamonds with such a potentially powerful major suit on the side. To change this to a hand that I might pre-empt with, move the spade queen into either side suit, or make the spade queen the three.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q J 6 2
 5 2
 A Q 10 8 7 4
♣ 6
South West North East
      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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.

Mao Zedong


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

4

The modern defender has to have a number of weapons in his armory. These include a method of leading (top of honor sequences, fourth-highest from length, occasionally second-highest from four or five small against no-trump). Then he needs a system of signaling — high cards for an even number or encouragement — plus the judicious use of suit-preference signals. When attitude and count are irrelevant or already known, high cards suggest the higher suit, low cards the lower.

A hot potato when it comes to signaling at no trump is the Smith Echo. After the opening lead, each defensive hand can use this tool to reinforce whether they like that suit as soon as possible. Following to declarer’s first lead, when not giving count, a defender’s high spot card encourages the suit of the opening lead, while a low spot card denies extras in that suit. This signal can produce tempo problems – and sometimes the message can be conveyed in other ways, as in today’s deal.

Against three no-trump, West’s heart four went to the 10 and king. South played on clubs, West winning the second round as East echoed, to say he liked hearts. West now decided that South might be left with the bare heart queen, so he cashed the ace, which was fatal since it blocked the suit.

Note: If East had broken the bridge rules by playing the heart jack to trick one, then West knows that a low heart at his next turn is right, whether East has the queen or not, since South surely has the 10! West can subsequently overtake the queen to run the suit and defeat the game.



Whether playing inverted raises or not (where a simple raise promises a limit raise or better), this hand is on the cusp between a diamond raise and a one-no-trump response. In a strong no-trump base, I lean slightly toward bidding one no-trump, since it isn’t entirely clear I will be wrong-siding no-trump. As a passed hand, I might raise diamonds, since partner is slightly more likely to have real diamonds.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ K 10 6
 8 6 3
 K 10 6 3
♣ K J 6
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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 14th, 2019

He who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment on his debt.

Seneca


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

♠10

As bidding methods develop, it has become customary for new-suit responses to a two-club opener to promise good suits, so the response of two diamonds becomes a mark-time action. Players tend to avoid bidding two no-trump with a balanced hand, or they reserve the call for a different hand type altogether.

Today, though, South hogged the no-trump, and when he was unable to raise clubs directly, his partner closed his eyes and jumped to a contract he hoped South could make. This seems premature to me, since if South had held the doubleton club queen, there easily could have been 13 tricks on top. It would have cost nothing to bid four clubs, giving South the chance to cue-bid a second-round control.

When West led the spade 10 against the no-trump slam, South instinctively ducked in dummy, realizing too late that not only were the hearts now blocked, but the spades were too! He tried to recover by cashing his heart and spade winners then playing three rounds of clubs. However, when East was able to win and shift to diamonds, declarer had to play for his only chance of putting up the queen, so he finished an ignominious two down.

Had declarer paused for thought when it was necessary, he would have put up dummy’s ace at trick one, then unblocked his heart winners. Now come the clubs, and when they break 3-2, declarer can clear the suit.

The spade king represents the entry to the two heart winners, with the diamond ace still in place to reach the long clubs.



The spades may not be splitting for declarer, but it still seems right to go active by leading a top diamond rather than a relatively passive heart. Anytime your partner has diamond length or one of the top three diamonds, this is a sensible lead. Moreover, if the diamond ace-king are to your right, the lead doesn’t cost a trick.

LEAD WITH THE ACES

♠ K 10 7 6
 9 8 6 2
 Q J 2
♣ J 2
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 2 ♠
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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 13th, 2019

How would you handle a hand like ♠ J-4,  K-6-5-4,  K-Q-4-2, ♣ 8-7-2, facing a strong no-trump? Would vulnerability or the form of scoring affect your decision?

Gun for Hire, Orlando, Fla.

It seems clearly right to start with a Stayman two-club call, with the intention of merely inviting game even if you find a heart fit. The honors in the long suits somewhat compensate for your lack of intermediates. With some heart intermediates, you might persuade me to do more. If vulnerable at teams, I might bid to four hearts if we found a fit.

If the opponents intervene over our no-trump, what would you recommend I play to describe my hand? Is Stolen Bid an approved gadget?

Barabbas, Madison, Wis.

Both opener and his partner must be able to bid all the suits efficiently. (The transfer element is less vital.) Each player should be able to double with shortage since that is the hand you are most likely to want to compete on. Responder can play transfers and Stayman over an artificial double or a call of two clubs — with double acting as Stayman. After higher intervention, new suits should be natural at the two-level and forcing at the three-level. The meaning of a two-no-trump call as Lebensohl is discussed at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensohl.

In second seat, I had ♠ A-Q-7-2,  K-4,  K-Q-J-9-5, ♣ Q-4, and opened one diamond. The next hand overcalled two hearts, my partner doubled, and the next player jumped to four hearts pre-emptive. I had planned to jump to four spades and wasn’t sure if that call would suffice here — or what slam try to make.

Missing Out, Mexico City, Mexico

If your right-hand opponent had let you jump to four spades, you would probably have made that call. As it is, you certainly want to make a slam try; but does a jump to five spades ask for a heart control? Does four no-trump suggest the minors here rather than being key-card? I’ll settle for bidding four spades and hope partner can do more with real extras.

My partner and I have been arguing about whether there is any sort of hand that would pass in first or second chair and then back into the opponent’s auction with a pre-empt. Is such a thing possible?

Better Late Than Never, Springfield, Mass.

There must be hands with the shape for a pre-empt but not the right honor location, where you might pass initially but decide to pre-empt later. Similarly, you may have a hand with too much defense or with a sidesuit. When vulnerable, you might also not have a good enough suit to act on initially. Whenever your partner bids, though, jumps by a passed hand in a new suit will not be a single-suited pre-empt but should show fit for your partner.

Holding ♠ Q-7-3-2,  K-Q,  A-J-4-3, ♣ A-Q-3, please discuss what you might open and why.

No Way Jose, Bellingham, Wash.

Not all 18-counts are created equal. This hand, with its doubleton heart honors not pulling their full weight and no intermediates, looks like a strong no-trump to me. You could persuade me that if your no-trump range includes good 14-counts, then you should go high and not low; I’ll take that under advisement. At pairs, though, I’d reluctantly open one diamond so as to go with the field.


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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 12th, 2019

There’s not a joy the world can give like that it takes away.

Lord Byron


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

♣J

This is the last of the week’s examples of manipulating a trump fit missing the king. Here, South’s three-no-trump call offers a choice of games. North is allowed to pass, though he would normally convert to four spades with four-card trump support, if not owning a completely square shape or terrible trumps. Today, though, North might see the possibility of a club ruff in his hand.

As declarer in four spades, you cover the lead of the club jack with the king, win the club continuation and lead a heart to dummy for the winning spade finesse. It looks best now to take the diamond ace and spade ace. If the king does not fall, eliminate your clubs and hearts, then play a second diamond, hoping West began with the doubleton diamond king and just two spades. If so, he will be forced to lead a club or heart and let you pitch your third-round diamond loser.

As it happens, the spade king falls, and declarer can draw trumps and claim 10 tricks. Should anything different have happened?

Maybe, though much may depend on the ability (actual and perceived) of South and West. When declarer leads a trump to the jack, West has an obligatory false-card of dropping the nine or 10; this costs nothing and may create a losing option for declarer. If South has not encountered this maneuver before, he may decide to play West for a singleton or the doubleton 10-9 of trumps, then cross to dummy to lead the spade queen in an attempt to pin the remaining intermediate.



When your partner introduces a major after the double of a minor, it tends not to be a call made with four small cards or dead minimum values. So, I would raise to two hearts now, aware that we might just miss a spade fit, but expecting even a 4-3 heart fit to play reasonably well.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ Q 6 5 3
 Q J 5
 A 7 6 4
♣ K 2
South West North East
1 Dbl. 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 11th, 2019

Taste does not come by chance: It is a long and laborious task to acquire it.

Sir Joshua Reynolds


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

♣J

Manipulating a trump suit that includes the ace, queen and jack (with or without the 10 and nine) has many possibilities. Sometimes even the eight and seven play a role in determining best practice. Take a look at today’s deal.

With no violently bad breaks in the side suits, a four-heart contract appears to hinge on either the spade finesse or trumps playing for no loser. After a top club lead from West, there is no reason for declarer to delay going after trumps. What is his best approach to play the suit for no loser, in case the spade finesse fails?

As we have already seen this week, there are positions in which you should lead low to the 10, guarding against the singleton king with East. But that is not the case here; declarer must worry about the three small singletons with West as opposed to the singleton king with East.

To guard against the more likely case, declarer must first run the trump queen or jack from dummy. When it holds, he must repeat the finesse by leading the other top honor from the board. Leading to the 10 on the second round of trumps would leave East with a sure trump trick today.

When East covers on the second round of trumps, declarer wins in hand, discovering the bad break, then knocks out the diamond ace and wins the club return to pitch a spade from dummy. He can take a third trump finesse and lead the spade queen from hand, losing to the king, but virtually ensuring he can take the rest of the tricks.



It would be nice if a double here were for penalties, but it isn’t. A double here would be for take-out. (Switch the diamonds and spades to produce a minimum example.) Generally, low-level doubles — especially those early in the auction and under the trumps — are more for take-out than penalty. I guess I’d pass; defending against two diamonds undoubled looks like our best possible result.

BID WITH THE ACES

♠ 8 7 5
 K 9 7 2
 A 9 6 2
♣ Q 6
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 2 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact reprints@unitedmedia.com.