Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 25, 2009



Vul: Both

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

Opening Lead: 4

“Every age has had its specialists. When smoke signals were the medium, there were surely some American Indians a little more nimble with their blankets.”

— Upper & Lower Case magazine

One question that many readers ask me is how to signal as a defender. The simple answer is that when one defender leads a suit, it is simplest and best to signal attitude, and if attitude is known, to signal count, unless (and this is a big caveat) the number of tricks the defenders can take in the suit is already defined by bridge logic.

In that last case, suit preference is the most useful signal one can send; and by suit preference I mean the size of the irrelevant spot cards played by the defense indicates their liking or disliking for the higher or lower suit. An example may make this plainer.

When West leads the spade four against three no-trump, East wins with the ace and returns his remaining spade, correctly believing that his partner has a five-card spade suit. South will play the spade jack on the second trick, and West must win the spade queen. What next? We have come to the critical play: West must return the spade eight to clear the suit.

The point is that while establishing his spades, West should indicate to his partner that he has an entry card in the heart suit by returning the highest possible spade (a suit-preference signal showing an entry in a high-ranking suit). As you can see, when East gains the lead with the diamond king, if he leads a club instead of a heart, declarer will make his contract.

ANSWER: If you play the Principle of Fast Arrival (not everybody does), North’s sequence implies some interest in higher things. With no slam interest, he would have jumped to four hearts. That being so, this hand is slam-suitable, and the way to show it is to cue-bid four clubs. This suggests the club ace and a maximum hand.


South Holds:

K J 10
Q J 8 5 3
Q 10
A Q 10
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2NT Pass 3 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.


bruce karlsonApril 8th, 2009 at 10:53 am

Back again!!!

Anyway, using the rule of seven, and hoping to foul the clarity of LHO’s signal, I would take the Spade King at trick two. In that case, should LHO play the 8 to indicate a Heart or the 2 showing 5?? It seems to me that playing the King at trick two puts a bit of dust in the air, never a bad thing. What sayeth you???

Bobby WolffApril 8th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Hi Bruce,

Although from declarer’s point of view, it does look like the spades are exactly the way they are, I, as declarer would also finesse the Jack at trick 2.

First, sometimes the declarer will fall victim to an illusion when the spades are distributed, West holding 3 small, and possibly leading MUD (middle, up, down) and East holding 4 to the AQ.

Second, and more likely, what about if East has A32 and the king of diamonds as well as the ace of hearts. Then the spade finesse as a declarer, serves as a holdup play and will eventually prevent the defense from taking the setting 5th trick.

As you surmised, if declarer does rise with the king at trick 2, YES!! West should play the 8 as a same suit preference if and when, from West’s viewpoint, East gets on lead. As you can see, sometimes bridge can be a real thinking man’s game, which requires legal signalling and detective work and other times only needs focus and discipline.

One fact which really comes forth in SPADES (forgive me) is your bright, inquisitive mind and your beginning love for our great game. Please stay with it and with as much energy as you can muster. I can assure you that you will be rarely disappointed.

Thanks for writing.