Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W


A Q 10 5

Q J 10 5

J 7

A Q 5


K 8 6 2

K Q 10 9

9 8 6 3 2


7 3

9 7 6 3

8 5 3 2

K 7 4


J 9 4

A K 8 4 2

A 6 4

J 10


South West North East
1 Pass 2 NT* Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 5 Pass
6 All Pass    
*Game forcing with heart support

Opening Lead: K

“It was the limit of my dream,

The focus of my prayer,

A perfect, paralyzing bliss

Contented as despair.”

— Emily Dickinson

West leads the diamond king. How do you plan to bring home your delicate heart slam?

In seven hearts you would play for both black-suit finesses to work. But given that you can bring home 12 tricks by taking only one of the two finesses, which should it be?

The answer is that taking the club finesse allows you to pitch a spade but leaves you with a spade loser, while taking the spade finesse allows you to pitch your only club loser.

Accordingly, you should duck the opening lead to set up communication for ruffing a diamond in dummy. West should shift to a club at trick two. Since you need the spade finesse, you should rise with the club ace and play the trump queen, finding the bad break, then the diamond jack to your ace so you can ruff your remaining diamond high. After cashing dummy’s trump 10, you will draw East’s remaining trumps with your ace and king.

Finally, you have to manage the spade suit correctly. If you lead the jack first, West will play low. After a second spade finesse, you will be locked in dummy, unable to repeat the spade finesse, and East will score his club king eventually.

You can avoid this problem by first running the spade nine. When that is successful, you continue with the spade jack. Eventually, you score four spade tricks, five trumps, the diamond ace, a diamond ruff and the club ace, for a total of 12 tricks.


South Holds:

J 9 4
A K 8 4 2
A 6 4
J 10


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 1 2 Pass
ANSWER: You plan to head toward three no-trump, but there is no harm in investigating other contracts such as a club or a heart game. Start by bidding two diamonds, a forcing change of suit, hoping to hear heart support from your partner. You plan to cuebid spades to look for a stopper if a heart contract seems impractical, while keeping a club game in reserve if all else fails.


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David WarheitDecember 5th, 2010 at 7:44 am

Or: win the first trick with the ace of diamonds & cross to dummy with a trump. If trumps are not 4-0, continue drawing trump, ending in your hand and play spades as indicated, ultimately losing a diamond and ruffing a diamond. If trumps are 4-0 with east having all 4, lose a diamond at trick 3. West wins and presumably leads a club. Win the ace, then lead a small heart, covering whatever east plays. Ruff a heart, draw trump & play spades as indicated. Your line of play loses if diamonds are 7-1, probably not likely since west never bid, but still possible; my line loses if west has all four hearts, unless he has the king of clubs. Both lines require west to have the king of spades, of course. I think that my line is better mathematically, but probably my comment about west not having overcalled renders your line better in the real world. What do you think?

David WarheitDecember 5th, 2010 at 7:46 am

Where I said “ruff a heart”, of course I meant “ruff a diamond.

bobbywolffDecember 5th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Hi David,

My guess is that 4-0 hearts only 1 sided in this case the 4 being with West is practically more likely than 7-1 diamonds. Having said that the vulnerability present (EW only) might keep West from bidding the first time, making your suggested line more appealing.

My real thoughts are perhaps antithetical to the dilemma caused, since whether one ducks or not, at least to me, not particularly worth discussing since both lines are very close percentage wise and the choice is not worth worrying about.

The real mistake was mine in not making only NS vulnerable, thereby virtually precluding West having a decent seven card suit and not quacking.

Having eagle eye readers like yourself causes better scrutiny by the writer, since, in order to be considered responsible, I need to constantly measure up, especially with details.

My message (please forgive the pun) is that when the great scorer marks against your name, it is not whether you made the contract or not, but how you played that game.

Either line is satisfactory.