Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Rules and models destroy genius and art.

William Hazlitt

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


Few would solve today's problem, although the correct play requires nothing more than a careful consideration of the opponents' bidding and a little thought as to how the play is likely to develop.

Against four hearts the opening lead is the diamond two to dummy’s ace. Clearly the spot-card led indicates that diamonds are 5-1, and while you are in no imminent danger of a defensive ruff, the possibility exists that the defenders may be able to arrange some inconvenient discards – if you let them.

On the bidding, it is both safe (and necessary as the cards lie) to cash the spade ace, king and queen. While you might feel this could expose you to ruffs, remember that West’s negative double showed precisely four cards in the spade suit. (With five he would have bid one spade.) The reason for cashing those winners is to prevent West from discarding spades on diamond winners.

It may feel that you have done the heavy lifting now, and can tackle trumps, but that is not so. Instead you must lead the club queen to drive out the ace. You can ruff the third round of diamonds high, then play a high trump from hand if you want, but after that you must cash the club king and ruff a club, thereby avoiding the loss of a second club.

If you lead trumps early, West will ruff his partner’s diamond winner and can then play ace and another trump to leave South with a second club loser.

You have the values to bid one no-trump, but you have a huge misfit (and the last thing you want to do is have partner run to his six-card heart suit). While one no-trump may work here, I'd be inclined to pass and back in later. Remember, an immediate call of two diamonds would be a raise of hearts here, but a delayed bid of two diamonds will be natural.


♠ 10 9 5
 K Q J 10 5
♣ A J 7 5
South West North East
1 1 Dbl.

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David WarheitDecember 18th, 2012 at 9:21 am

While your line of play works, there is no necessity to cash spades. Just lead the queen of clubs at trick two. Presumably east wins, cashes a diamond and leads another diamond. Ruff high, cash the club king, ruff a club and play trumps. West can discard either 2 clubs or 2 spades on the diamonds, but so what. While west presumably has exactly 4 spades, just in case in has 5, this line is better than trying to cash 3 rounds of spades.

Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

On the quote, did the author mean artists’ models I wonder? After all, much great art seems to involve scantily clad young women, so did Hazlitt have a puritanical streak? West’s double today was not so much skimpy as nearly nude – is a (potentially) misfitting 5 count really a sound double here, as partner masy (and did) have long diamonds?

On BWTA, what would redouble mean? Could it be values, no fit and alerting partner that opponents could be in trouble?

Frivolity aside, all the best for the festive season and then 2013.


Iain Climie

bobbywolffDecember 18th, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Hi David,

Always thanks for your analysis, and granted, with everything exactly equal, it would always be better to not rely on West’s negative double to show precisely 4 spades.

However, on your presumed line of play, what if West correctly discards two spades while declarer chooses not to cash his spades, but rather leads the queen of clubs early. East grabs the ace and plays 2 high diamonds when declarer ruffs high on the 2nd high diamond from East. Then when declarer is now down to 4 trump he then leads two high trump from one hand or another, but West cleverly ducks both of them. At this point West is the master, because he now sits in the catbird seat, able to win two more trumps whether or not South continues trump (not wise) or too late, attempts to cash 3 spade tricks.

For what it is worth, most top-level players play a negative double to show precisely 4 of the other major, especially spades over a 1 level overcall of 1 heart and then, of course, choose to bid spades on his own with 5+.

I, for one, and am quite sure all other commentators, appreciate your usual right-on bridge assessments.

bobbywolffDecember 18th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Hi Iain,

While the thought, even at my not so tender age, of the word models referring to scantily clad women, would not be my guess as to William Haslett’s meaning. Instead, I would think that he meant an architect’s, a creator or an inventor’s model referring to a peek into the finished product.

I agree with you about the nudity of high cards in West’s hand, but sometimes it is what declarer has to deal with (pun intended).

Regarding the BWTA hand a redouble by partner, would, by definition (at least, mine) show a modicum of heart support, at least a doubleton honor and never a lowly singleton.

To me, this type of redouble, involving partner’s overcall, not his opening bid, is different in that over his opening bid, the primary reason to redouble is to alert partner to your defensive values, with shortness in partner’s opening bid suit not a serious detraction since, at this point, our side easily should have the preponderance of the high cards.

Judy and I extend back to you the joys of the festive season, especially a wonderful 2013 and, in addition, want to share with you my joy in finding you as a great friend, a very worthy bridge analyst and player, and also an insightful communicator.

Stay healthy!



Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Many thanks for the overly kind comments but my wife will object to the last one! I can talk, write, text and E-Mail until the cows come home; listening (which is a key part of communication, or so I’m told) is a definite problem.