Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 19th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: North


K J 8 5


A Q J 10 7 6 5 4



K Q 10 8 4 3

9 8

A J 3 2


10 4 3 2

A J 7

K 3

K Q 7 6


A Q 9 7

9 6 5


10 9 8 5 4


South West North East
1 Dbl.
1 4 4 Pass
Pass 5 5 Dbl.
All pass

Opening Lead: Heart king

“Before you trust a man, eat a peck of salt with him.”

— Anonymous

As Eddie Kantar says (in “Kantar on Kontract”): “It’s not every partner who will trust you enough to put down in dummy an eight-card side suit headed by 100 honors.” If you have one of these partners, you’d better know how to handle your 4-4 trump fits.

Against five spades the defenders led and continued hearts. South ruffed in dummy and continued with the diamond ace, then the queen, ruffing out the king.

At this point both North and South each have three trumps and East has four. If declarer plays the spade ace, then a spade to dummy’s jack, he will take exactly two more tricks. When a diamond is led from dummy, East trumps, and the most South can do is take each of his trumps separately. Down four!

Far better is to cross to the spade jack and play a high diamond, intending to discard if East doesn’t ruff. Say East ruffs: South overruffs with the ace and overtakes the spade queen with dummy’s king. When South runs the winning diamonds, East can score no more than his spade 10. Contract made.

South’s line works even when West has a second spade, when he would trump the third round of diamonds and play a club, forcing dummy to ruff. Dummy would now have the blank spade king, South the ace-queen, and East the 10-4. But declarer simply runs the diamonds, and whenever East trumps in, South overtrumps with the ace, enters dummy with the spade king, and takes the balance.


South holds:

K Q 10 8 4 3
9 8
A J 3 2


South West North East
1 1
2 2 Pass Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s pass indicates a minimum balanced hand without much heart support, suggesting you can reopen with a double for takeout, or compete either to three clubs or three hearts. All three calls make sense, but bidding three hearts gets you closest to your most likely game, so it would be my choice.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2September 2nd, 2011 at 12:48 pm

In the bidding quiz, maybe bidding four hearts directly is worth considering.

If partner’s bidding shows “a minimum balanced hand without much heart support,” that sounds like 13 HCPs and a doubleton heart. Partner’s failure to bid 2N would then suggest – together with the spade overcall and raise – few spade values. That is, with something like S-KJx and H-xx, North probably would have bid an economical 2N. Thus, if North has any wasted spade HCPs, it probably is no more than three (say, Kxx).

That should leave partner with 10+ HCP outside spades, since a balanced 12 HCP hand would likely be passsed by a dealer when vulnerable in the absence of a weak notrump system.

I’m having a tough time finding 10 (non-spade) HCP holdings for North that include a doubleton heart that don’t make four hearts a favorite. For example, give North the two minor marriages such that the opening was on an ace-less 13 count. Even with that layout, South needs only to avoid a second trump loser and can lead from Board twice.

Among the worst one I could find was if North had S-Kxxx H-Jx D-KJxx C-KQx. Even then East would have to have both missing diamond facecards and the spade ace. Another seemed to be S-Kxx H-Jx, D-KQJx, and C-Kxxx, leaving South the club finesse but with the extra chance that West might have either pointed ace.

If North has fewer than 3 wasted spade HCPs and 11 non-spade points, it gets even tougher to find holdings that do not make four hearts a strong favorite. The only one I could spot was S-Qxxx H-xx D-KQJx C-KQx, and that goes back to avoiding a second trump loser.

Now, if “a minimum balanced hand without much heart support” can include hands like:

Kxxx x KQxx KQxx


Kxx x KJ10xx KQxx

then bidding 3H is clearly better than 4H.

Bobby WolffSeptember 2nd, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Hi Jim2,

First, I will like to make a preliminary comment on my not knowing, in the interest of accuracy or perhaps trying to give a heart felt opinion, the way to discuss bidding judgment. I have almost never tried to visualize specific hands or card combinations since I always thought, because of the large number of possibilities, it was practically impossible and therefore not worthwhile.

However, that is certainly not to say that for others, it may be the opposite. You cover the subject on this particular hand well, except for perhaps underplaying the possibility that partner has a singleton heart or even a doubleton without the jack. Also after a 3 heart rebid by you, your partner with the jack, certainly with any 3 or especially the ace should make every effort, especially at IMPs (or rubber bridge) to raise to 4. Of course, sometimes your hearts will be solid, with or without the ace and other specific cards will either work or not work. Here a club fit is somewhat vital in order to feel good about making game in hearts.

Enough said by me, except that perhaps a reminder that a bid of 3 will keep options open which might consider even a bid of 3NT by partner with the necessary holdings, e.g. KQx x, KQJxxx, Kxx, while a jump to 4 hearts (necessary to do with the extra jack of hearts in your hand) ends the discussion.

If there was one legacy about bridge I would like to pass on to all who are interested, it would be that bridge and its card layouts have a mind of its own and like a mysterious beautiful lady does not like to share its secrets with anyone.

jim2September 2nd, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I generally don’t hand guess, and I espouse the Theory of Card Migration in the auction as well as the play.

It is when partner has made a limit bid and others at the table have made calls that I oft try to predict. That is, when there are clear constraints and narrow ranges into which the other hand must fit, together with opposition bidding that further limits which cards can be where. That is why I asked if the “balanced” part in your answer could include a singleton heart.

Bobby WolffSeptember 3rd, 2011 at 5:16 am

In reality, either minimum balanced or worse in partner’s suit, too often a singleton. Throw in honors, according to the bidding, being in the wrong place and the visualization looks doubtful.