Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

The man who listens to Reason is lost; Reason
Enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to
Master her.

G. B. Shaw

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


On this deal from the US trials from a few years ago, Gary Cohler’s jump to three no-trump seems a reasonable if slightly premature action, since he was expecting to find his partner a doubleton spade. However a slower route of doubling and then bidding three no-trump might have led to reaching four hearts. A spade was led against three notrump, and declarer was in deep trouble. He led a diamond toward his hand but East, Jim Krekorian took the diamond ace to continue spades, and Cohler took the third round. Now if Cohler could have divined the heart position, he would have made the hand (which would certainly not have been impossible, given East’s decision to take the diamond ace with non-solid spades. Surely he figured to have the heart card). However Cohler played for the heart king to be onside, leading the heart queen from hand hoping that he could duck the trick to the West hand. That led to two down.

In the closed room, Neil Chambers as North played four hearts on the spade lead, which established a home for his club loser. Since declarer could see that he had to lose two diamond tricks, his target became to hold the heart losers to one. Chambers made no mistake, playing off the heart ace to drop the singleton king, the only relevant 4-1 split, and made his game.

You can follow a summary of the trials on, and watch live at

A simple response of one no-trump might be up to an uninspiring 11-count and would be non-forcing, while a jump to two no-trump suggests a full opener. This hand is too good for the first action so since you really do not want to emphasize your heart support, you should bid two no-trump and hope partner can work out what to do next. A bid of two clubs would also be sensible if played as forcing.


♠ K 10 9
 Q 8
 K 7 5
♣ A 10 8 7 6
South West North East
  1 1 Pass

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Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2015 at 11:23 am

Hi Bobby,

If the heart suit is changed slightly by swapping the 5 and 4, then there is a better safety play than hoping someone has singleton king, at least if entries permit. Running the HQ can cope with east holding 7, 9 or 10, provided you can get back to table to lead the H8. Maybe it was as well for Neil Chambers that he didn’t have that option – taking a %age line and losing to the stiff king is a path towards extreme frustration.



bobby wolffMay 26th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, and Neil would have seen the advantage of his 6-5 (instead of 6-4) heart combination, allowing him to plow through another heart forcing West to split his honors, of course, allowing for a more likely 4-1 break with West almost twice as likely to hold the king with his four hearts as he would both the 10 and the 9.

And to recognize that critical difference is what numeracy is all about, but since only the 4 rather than the 5 was held it is instead all about fantasy on this hand but real bridge education for the future, especially for those who want to delve that deeply.

Thanks, Iain, for your by the way, together with your comment about the unlucky result leading to frustration.

slarMay 27th, 2015 at 8:51 pm

I’m a day late on this one because I was recovering from some unlucky/frustrating results from a regional over the weekend. Sure some of it was self-inflicted but at the intermediate/advanced level the field can be very erratic. How many times can our opponents be the only ones to both find the right contract and make play it right?

Anyway if I’m North double at my second turn. I’m happy with anything partner does, right? With 2-3 spades I’d be more likely to pass. I think honor doubleton is underrated as support especially when your side suits are control-heavy. We had a misfit on Monday and I ended up declaring 4S with Axxxx opposite Kx. Even though trumps broke 5-1 I was able to bring the contract home with a play similar what Chambers did (but without the stiff King – I’m still waiting for my chance to pull off that play).

On BWTA, if 2C is non-forcing then 2NT is forcing and vice versa? I’m pretty sure in my partnership most 2NT bids are invitational so 2C is the only logical choice here.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2015 at 1:55 am

Hi Slar,

Most all bridge players including ones with much different levels of experience, have an aggressiveness quotient. Pass, at least to me, is an underrated action when after opening the bidding with a minimum and having nothing particularly good happen the first round of bidding with all players at the table in action.

Yes, the 6th heart is not chopped liver, but your original opening bid needed it in order to chirp first rather than pass. If South would have slightly underbid at his second turn and only bid 2NT then North should take that opportunity to bid 3 hearts and happily hear partner raise to 4.

All of the above is somewhat results oriented and this hand was chosen because of the play, but doubling 2 spades, I think is a bit much, when pass comes closer to better describing the minimum nature with, at this point no apparent fit available for NS.

Also, if I can read your playing bridge situation (which is problematical) I think you are at the delicate position in moving up the bridge ladder, with different partners, because bidding systems will be at least slightly different between the group involved, together with not all that much experience in any one partnership.

It can be a troublesome experience but hang with and all of a sudden the skies will clear, the rainbows will appear and one of your partners and you will turn a corner into the next higher level. Then all good things may occur, including the intimidation of some lesser experienced partnerships playing against which will, in turn, serve to lessen their effectiveness (while playing against you) and your scores will rise, if not skyrocket.

Perhaps only a dream but very worth pursuing and having the patience to wait for it to happen.

BTW, with the BWTA, I do not play that either 2 clubs nor 2NT is forcing, but would bid 2NT and accept whatever partner decides to do.

HerremanAugust 24th, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Knowing my partner’s 1major overcalls, I would’t dream of going to 2NT on this hand.
I would need club 9 in stead of club 8 :). Yes, it si so close.