Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small.
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose

North North
Neither ♠ A 7 2
 A 9 6
 9 7 6 4
♣ K 4 3
West East
♠ Q J 10 8 4
 A Q 3
♣ A 9 6 2
♠ 9 6 3
 Q 8 5
 10 8 5 2
♣ 10 8 7
♠ K 5
 K J 10 4 3 2
 K J
♣ Q J 5
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 1♠ 2♠ Pass
4 All pass    


In today's auction North cue-bids at his first turn to show a limit raise in hearts, and South has enough to jump to game, despite some concerns about his kings being badly placed because of the overcall.

On the lead of the spade queen, South will have to play carefully to make. Of course, he could succeed by playing East for the trump queen, but there is a far better line. South wins the spade king and ace and ruffs the spade loser in hand. Then he leads the club queen to knock out the club ace; West is forced to win and can only exit with another club. South wins the club jack, cashes the heart ace, and then takes the club king. (On a bad day West might ruff the third club, but if he did, declarer could reasonably hope he would have no more trumps left and thus be compelled to lead away from the diamond ace or to provide a ruff-sluff by playing spades.)

As it is, when the club king lives, the key play follows. South leads a second trump from dummy and, when East follows with a low heart, finesses the jack. If the finesse wins, South is safe; he must give up two diamonds but has 10 tricks. If the finesse loses, West will be out of hearts and must open up the diamonds or give South a ruff and discard. Either way, South is home free.

There is no clear-cut action here, since you really have no idea if you want to defend on this hand or find partner's five-card suit if he has one. My guess would be to double for takeout and let partner pick a trump suit. Even if your partner bids a weak suit, he can surely score his small trumps by ruffing diamonds in his hand.


♠ A 7 2
 A 9 6
 9 7 6 4
♣ K 4 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. 2

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David WarheitJuly 30th, 2013 at 9:09 am

Tiny detail which you got but didn’t talk about: when south plays trumps, he must play the ace and then lead the 6. If east shows out, south takes the losing finesse, but still has the 9 in dummy as an entry to take the (hopefully successful) finesse against east’s hoped for Q.

Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hi Bobby, David,

There is an extra reason why David’s suggestion of playing East for the (D)Q is sensible if West has HQxx. When South leads the CQ, West may fear a discard on the CK if south has CQJ or even singleton Q. He might well try a diamond shift from Q10xx or similar, although a little more thought (and attention to east’s spot card) could show that this might not be effective. West’s failure to do this (or even think about it) certainly suggests he has the DA and doesn’t want to open up the suit.



bruce karlsonJuly 30th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Re: “Bid…” If South’s RHO had passed, what is the best way to show this type hand?? Perhaps 3H, but a cue bid could work also.


Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hi David,

Great catch, and should have been mentioned, but sometimes and seeing the EW cards as they are, carelessness, a deadly commodity while attempting to play against top-level opponents, tends, too often, to make its presence felt.

Perhaps the fact that if West would show out on the first round of hearts (on the bidding and play up to then a live possibility) instead, then the nine of hearts must then be led next, might keep the declarer alert.

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Your comment is of course relevant, although as you say East should give his partner a count signal in clubs which would clarify the defense. Also, with either a singleton Q of clubs or the QJ doubleton, the declarer not starting that suit earlier, probably at trick 2 is almost a sure indication that neither of those holdings does he have.

BTW and please excuse the digression, complete with a jig, it could be a useful declarer play tool at times when holding as declarer a simple AKx in hand and QJx in dummy or some other similar holdings to lead the king from hand early and then be relatively assured that the opponents, depending on their count signals, will give an accurate count to each other, both of them expecting, with such a declarer’s play, that the other one holds the ace. “McGinn is in bed and McCanley doesn’t know it, McCanleys in bed and McGinn doesn’t know it, they both are in bed, the very same bed, and neither one knows that the other is dead”.

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Hi Bruce,

Assuming you are talking about the BWTA hand and if it goes 1D by LHO Dbl. by partner Pass by RHO, then, although far from perfect, while not possessing a 4 card major I would either bid 1NT, which is an underbid or 2 diamonds first and then over a major suit response bid 2NT (NF) denying holding 4 in whatever suit partner bid, but at the same time (or almost) getting across the strength of the hand, but, of course not having a diamond stop for sure. Sometimes we need to improvise and merely hope for something good to happen while, at least, to suggest to partner the hand type (balanced) he holds. I would not bid 3 hearts, holding only 3 of them.

A difficult choice, for sure!

Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the comment, and the worthwhile possibility of extracting info from honest opponents or at least finding out which (if either) always tends to signal if holding an even number. At pairs this may be of limited use but, in a long teams match, this could be a useful edge.


Bill CubleyJuly 30th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

And to complete this discussion, is this the same Marquis of Montrose who oppressed Rob Roy? Hope you both are well.

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi Iain and Bill,

Only discussing deceptive, but legal, methods of receiving sometimes necessary information when the opponents are only thinking of helping each other, not their opponents.

Thanks Bill, for your brief reference of discussing UK history.