Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 13th, 2013

Love those things that will never be seen twice.

Alfred de Vigny

South North
Both ♠ 8 6
 K J 9 2
♣ A Q 7 5 3 2
West East
♠ K Q J 9
 10 8 6
 3 2
♣ 10 8 6 4
♠ 10 7 5 4 2
 5 3
 J 10 8 5
♣ K 9
♠ A 3
 A Q 7 4
 K Q 9 7 6 4
♣ J
South West North East
1 Pass 2♣ Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass
4 NT Pass 5♣* Pass
7 All pass    

*Three key-cards, counting the trump king as a key-card


In today's deal when South heard his partner force to game with the two-club call, then raise hearts, he cue-bid the spade ace, then opted for simplicity by using Blackwood at his next turn, driving to the grand slam in hearts.

The hand was easier to bid than to play. After a spade lead South should win the spade ace and decide which bad breaks he can cope with. The best path looks to be to cash the diamond ace, then the heart king and queen, followed by the diamond king and queen. If diamonds are 3-3, declarer has the rest by drawing the last trump and running the diamonds.

By playing on diamonds before drawing the last trump, declarer can come home when one defender has three trumps and four diamonds. Declarer ruffs the fourth diamond in dummy, then comes to hand with a trump and runs the diamonds before taking the club finesse at trick 12.

It might also succeed when the cards lie as in the diagram, where West has three trumps and two diamonds. Assuming West ruffs in on the third diamond, declarer overruffs, plays ace and another club, dropping the king, and ruffs out the diamonds, pitches his spade loser on the club queen, and his hand is high. But note that if West does not ruff the third diamond, declarer might easily go wrong. Might he not simply ruff the fourth diamond, draw the last trump ending in hand, and eventually take the club finesse?

With a hand this strong you are relatively safe to double in the pass-out seat, expecting to bid diamonds when one of the other three players bids spades. You won't necessarily be showing that you have hearts as well as diamonds, but that must be a live possibility, and partner will be able to explore for the fit if necessary.


♠ A 3
 A Q 7 4
 K Q 9 7 6 4
♣ J
South West North East
1♣ Pass Pass

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David WarheitSeptember 27th, 2013 at 10:17 am

How about S playing the CA at trick 2, ruffing a club, then DA & ruff a club, HAQ, DK, pitching a S, ruff a S, draw trump and claim? This works if trump are 3-2 (or 4-1 with a singleton 10) and if the CK drops in 3 leads. The suggested line works if D are 3-3 (or 4-2 with doubleton J10) or if W has 2D & 3 trump, the CK drops in 2 leads & trumps are 3-2. That seems a lot less likely than my line. Yes, it does seem odd to try to set up the weaker of 2 suits (clubs instead of diamonds), but it sure seems right to me.

jim2September 27th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

The column line succeeds when diamonds are 3-3 while the DW line succeeds when clubs are 3-3.

This appears a wash.

The column line also succeeds when one defender is long in trump AND is also long in diamonds AND the club finesse works. This is not much additional probability when West is the one long in the reds, but is a little better when East is long in the reds. Unfortunately for declarer, this cannot be learned early enough in the play to help. I cannot quantify the column’s very last sequence, as it basically relies on defender play/mistake. Altogether, these additional probabilities are not negligible but likely do not amount to too much. I will get back to this.

The DW line also succeeds when the KC is doubleton because two ruffs will still set up the club suit (though declarer should trump the third round high if East does not show out.

This additional probability is easier to calculate. I believe there are 30 (out of 64) ways a 4-2 split (48%) can be dealt with 10 of them being Kx. That is, there are 5 spot cards that can be with his majesty and the king can be in either hand. Thus, the additional probability gain would seem to be one-third of 48% = 16% making the DW line:

– 3-3 clubs = 33%
– Kx clubs = 16%
– total = 49%

So, are the column conditional probability gains in addition to 3-3 diamonds (33%) more than the DW line’s 16%? That is, are the chances of those specific holdings when diamonds are NOT 3-3 more than 24% of the remaining 67% probability? Since those additional lines essentially include a club finesse (~50%), the question becomes if the chances of a defender being long in both reds is at least 50% (50% x 50% = 25%), and I think that is not the case. That is, being long in one red suit makes being long in the other less than 50%.

(I thought about trying to quantify that last line bit, but my head was already starting to hurt)

jim2September 27th, 2013 at 6:17 pm

DW –

BTW, you cannot ruff both clubs and spades and succeed with any 4-1 trump break, even 10 singleton.

If you want to gain that extra probability, I think you have to ruff the last club high (even when East shows out) and then lead a trump to the board rather than ruff a spade.

David WarheitSeptember 28th, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Jim2: Your second comment assumes something I did not say or mean. If hearts are either 3-2 or 4-1 with the singleton 10 and clubs behave, south ruffs the 3d round of clubs, if necessary with the queen, cashes the HA, then cashes the DK, pitching dummy’s losing spade, draws trump, and dummy is good.

jim2September 28th, 2013 at 6:34 pm

DW –

You posted:

“How about S playing the CA at trick 2, ruffing a club, then DA & ruff a club, HAQ, DK, pitching a S, ruff a S, draw trump and claim? This works if trump are 3-2 (or 4-1 with a singleton 10) ….”

It is to the “…, ruff a S, draw trump ….” to which I referred.

In other words, if declarer ruffed two clubs in hand and cashed the trump AQ, declarer is in the closed hand but South hand has no more trump. How then is declarer to get to dummy to draw trump and run clubs?

If declarer ruffs a spade on the Board, then declarer shortens the Board’s trump and loses to 4-1 trump.

My point is that declarer must always ruff the third club high so as to be able to get to dummy with a low trump. (or overtake the Q, I suppose)