Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dealer: West

Vul: N/S

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

Opening Lead: Q

“I missed my chance with one of the lords Of life.

And I have something to expiate; A pettiness.”

— D.H. Lawrence

The final of the Vanderbilt in Detroit last spring saw a team of four from the Polish national squad win a close match. Congratulations to the Polish team, not only for surviving the week with only four players, but also for being the first Polish team to win a major event in the United States.

Playing as four for a week can take it out of you. Krzysztof Martens, one of the victorious players, generously showed me this deal to indicate how fatigue can get the better of anybody.

Four hearts is not a great spot — especially on a spade lead. Before I show you what happened, plan the play. Assume that the cards will allow you to make.

At the table, Martens won and took two diamond finesses. East next ruffed away the diamond ace, so Martens overruffed and played a club to dummy, which held. Then a heart toward the king left the defenders no chance. East ducked, but Martens went up with the king, played another heart, and claimed 10 tricks when the honors appeared.

The defenders could have prevailed by winning the club ace and underleading in spades to allow the lead of the fourth diamond, ruffed with the heart ace. That promotes the heart queen to the setting trick. However, declarer could and should have countered that by discarding his spade on the third diamond. That cuts the defenders’ communications.

ANSWER: In this auction you can pass, treating your hand as a minimum, but I prefer a three-club bid, which ought to show precisely this hand pattern. (If you had four spades, you would insist on making spades trump, and if you were balanced, you would not look for a suit contract.) This way, you let partner decide where to go, having painted him the full picture.


South Holds:

7 5 4
A Q J 6 2
K Q 10 9
West North East South
1 1 Pass 2
Pass 2NT Pass ?

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, feel free to leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2009.


RowdyApril 2nd, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Hello – great to see your columns on the internet!

I guess I am a bidding dinosaur – I don’t support what could be a four card major when I have only 3 cards, and a perfectly good minor to bid – am I just old?



Bobby WolffApril 2nd, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Hi Rowdy,

No, you are young, since raising on three goes back 70+ years. The worst thing which could happen is that the declarer will play a two level contract with only 7 trumps, since if the bidding gets higher the four card suit will bid something like another suit or NT and when the opener does not go back to the raised major, everyone will know that he has only 3.

Raising with 3 trumps has many advantages, 1. Preemptive value, 2. In case of the opponent’s bidding and then finding a fit and preempting their opponents will have already announced their fit as well. 3. Adept declarer’s play 7 card trump fits well and, although challenging at times, scores higher than minor suits at match points. 4. The defense will rarely know early on how many trumps declarer has, making the defense more difficult.

Young fellow, “Try it, you’ll like it”.

bruce karlsonApril 2nd, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Regarding the above “Bid with the Aces” bidding sequence: Given that North, with an unlimited hand, is taking partner out of an 8 card or better fit, it seems he should be stronger. I would put him with close to an opener and reduced ruffing values. Were that the case, opener should bid 3 spades with a weakish opener and 3 NT with an extra queen.

Bruce Karlson

bobbywolffApril 2nd, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Hi Bruce,

Partner’s 2NT rebid shows only a 4 card spade suit and about 11-12 HCP’s and is definitely non-forcing. Opener’s 2d rebid shows only 3 card spade support and asks for a preference between diamonds and clubs. No great mystery, since all avenues to the right strain have been accomplished. Unless something unusual has been bid, partner is expected to either pass or prefer 3 diamonds. If responder has 3-3 in the minors he, of course will take the contract back to 3 diamonds. I guess if partner held KQJx, Axx, x, Jxxxx he might jump to 5 clubs since his heart Ace will be opposite shortness and his KQJx is also perfect for that bidding. Although 5 clubs is certainly not a laydown, I think that we would prefer to be in it.