Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 1, 2009



Vul: None

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

Opening Lead: 8

“I see and approve better things, but follow worse.”

— Ovid

Where would you rather play today’s deal, in three no-trump or four spades? At our featured table, South had a difficult choice of response to North’s takeout double of three clubs. He followed Bob Hamman’s rule that if one of your choices is to bid three no-trump, then you should do so, but he arrived in a poor spot.

On the helpful lead of the spade eight, declarer realized that West’s pre-empt suggested that East had most of the red-suit high cards, including the diamond king. So he played the spade 10 from dummy, which held the trick, and made a start on disrupting his opponents’ communications by playing a low heart from the dummy. East went in with the queen and switched to the club nine, ducked to West’s queen. West now led the diamond eight. Declarer ducked this, but won the diamond continuation with the ace. Correctly reading West for 2-2-2-7 distribution, South cashed the heart and spade aces, stripping West of all his side-suits, then exited with the club jack. West was now forced to lead from his 8-6 of clubs into declarer’s A-7, giving declarer a second club trick for his ninth winner.

In the other room West passed, and North declared four spades after East had shown the red suits. East led the heart king, which declarer won, only to misguess spades, losing a trick to East’s queen. That player exited with a club, and West eventually won the heart jack to lead diamonds and ensure one down.

ANSWER: Tempting as it is to bid two no-trump, it would be wiser to give false preference to two hearts here. Your partner has shown no extras in high cards, and though you appear to have spade stops, your absence of builders in partner’s suits means you have really nothing but those quick tricks to offer. Your side will have time to set up extra tricks in hearts, but not in no-trump.


South Holds:

A J 7 2
9 6
7 5 3
A J 7 3
South West North East
1 1
1NT Pass 2 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 15th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

At least one question emerges from that hand regarding the opener’s pre-empt: Declining to pre-empt very likely contributed to the bad guess in spades by the 4 spade declarer and taking the bid allowed a skillful declarer to bid and make the 3NT contract. This is not meant to be a “results” question but, do you have any rules of thumb regarding pre-empts with holdings such as this. I always would do it non-vul. Do you agree that one should generally take the bid?? Further, in the above auction, I think South should always bid 4 spades rather than 3 NT?? Do you agree?

There are some interesting wrinkles and opportunities for error by simply continuing the spades. For instance, a skillful declarer might look for the first signal from East. If it is a heart, and you and Bob Hamman are not the defenders, the D king “must” be well placed for the hook. Further, East might be tempted to keep 5 clubs and make a deadly pitch.

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Again, at the risk of playing favorites, I appreciate your organized and cogent thinking.

Percentage wise, when one preempts, he usually eats up a great deal of bidding space which often hinders the opponents from reaching their optimum contract, hence, when it is in the ball park, I almost always take the aggressive view and do preempt. It also sometimes leads, if finding a fit, to allow partner to continue the mischief to the opposition and further the effort.

Also, I do agree that, in spite of only a 4 card suit, I would choose, as South, to bid 4 spades, rather than 3NT if only for one reason, my club spots weren’t good enough (that shows what I know, since the singleton 10 in partner’s hand and the 9 in East’s hand eventually allowed the game going end play to work). We authors, sometimes call it editorial license.

Let me answer your last paragraph by only saying that when dealing with 1st class defenders and toward the middle to late defense, it is almost never necessary for the defense to signal, since, at least to the defenders, the cat is out of the bag, enabling the defense to defend in an optimum way since it is like taking an open book test, when the goal is to defeat the contract.

It then follows that sometimes match point bridge, rather than rubber, IMP, or victory point scoring, is just too difficult to play and, when only overtricks are involved, tends to bastardize the way “real” bridge should be played.

Dave RobinsonApril 15th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

i recall that Rixi Markus once allegedly said to her partner don’t bother signaling after a couple of tricks I will know better than you what you hold

David WarheitOctober 5th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Fun hand, 3NT. South has a choice of which defender to endplay. After winning the opening lead, South can play one more round of spades, exhausting the opponents, then lead a small heart to the eight (it won’t help for West to play the jack). Then cash the club ace and heart ace and throw East in with the third round of hearts. He can cash out his hearts but then must lead into dummy’s ace-queen of diamonds.