Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 10th, 2016

By persuading others we convince ourselves.


E North
N-S ♠ K
 Q J 3
 A K 10 6 4
♣ A J 9 8
West East
♠ A J
 K 9 8 7 5
 Q J 8 5
♣ 4 2
♠ 4 3
 A 10 6 4
 7 2
♣ K Q 6 5 3
♠ Q 10 9 8 7 6 5 2
 9 3
♣ 10 7
South West North East
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass


There were a few interesting points on this deal from a national Swiss Teams event. Although South is a bit light for a vulnerable three spade opening vulnerability, the eighth spade made the action a reasonable shot. When the South who reported the deal to me received the lead of the diamond queen, she won in dummy and, in order to create an entry back to hand, played a heart at once.

West won this and played a second diamond. Declarer won the king and now played the spade king. There was nothing West could do any more.

At the other table in this match, though, West led a club. Declarer had to guess whether this was a doubleton or a singleton. A singleton lead is perhaps somewhat unlikely, as that would give East a great club suit, along with a top heart honor (or West would have led one at trick one), and he might well have opened at favorable vulnerability at either the one or three level.

Be that as it may, declarer erred by winning the club ace at trick one. He then played the spade king to West’s ace, and West played a second club to East’s queen. East now cashed the heart ace. What would you play as West, to make sure that East played another club, to promote your spade jack?

At the table, West found the expert discard of the heart king, making it clear no more hearts would cash, and giving East no alternative but to play a club. Thoughtfully done!

Although your hand might look very strong, facing a limited partner you have only three hearts, and the spade king is something of a broken reed. You might make three no-trump here, but I don’t see how you could ever sensibly bid it, so my best guess would be to pass two hearts and hope to go plus here.


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

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GinnyJune 24th, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

In BWTA, can you help us with what West’s original pass means after the double, or more likely what West probably does not have, and separately, what should South do if West bids 2S immediately (P, 1S, DBL, 2S, P, P , ??) or in the continued auction (P, 1S, DBL, P, 2H, P, P (as you suggest), 2S, P, P , ??


bobbywolffJune 24th, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Hi Ginny,
Your questions are sophisticated, whose answers, if on point, will help those interested in what could be described as the rhythm of experienced bridge bidding.
Since West was quiet (passed) he should not hold as many as three spades unless he holds fewer than about 5 high card points (HCP). With s. Jxx, h. Kxxx, d. xxx, c. xxx he should pass but with s. Jxx, h. Kxxxx. d. xxxx, c. x he should definitely raise to 2 spades and with s. Jxx, h. Kxxxx, d. xxx, c. xx it becomes about 50-50 whether he does or not depending somewhat on his partner, who the opponents are, and the vulnerabilities. NV vs. V (known as favorable) is always reason for bidding (obstruction and the advantage of defending higher contracts by the opponents with a lesser downside to your aggressive competition).
Switching gears, if your first scenario occurs (P, 1S, Dbl. 2S, P. P. ?) I think South should then venture 3 diamonds, although he is absolutely minimum to now bid again. Yes a club response by partner is now ruled out (a disadvantage) but to double again is almost a guarantee of holding at least 4 hearts (the other major), a holding not held on the example.
With your 2nd scenario to which LHO belatedly competed to 2 Spades followed by 2 passes back to you, then again either pass or 3 diamonds is possible, somewhat dependent on what tendencies your LHO possesses and, of course, the vulnerability with the choice of only pass, or 3 diamonds as the continuation.
If vulnerable and playing matchpoints against experienced, aggressive opponents it would be my preference to not put your neck in a noose by bidding again since the partner of the spade bidder may have a good defensive hand and is prepared to double a nine trick contract in search of the magic 200 which will guarantee a bad result for your side.
IOW, psychology rather than pure bridge teaching rules (at least it does for players who are playing to win, rather than just a social outing).
Applying the lessons above in appropriate circumstances are constantly applicable during a normal game of duplicate bridge. At IMPs, where amount of gain or loss supersedes frequency of gain, learn to expect not as many very close penalty doubles; but when they do occur, do not be surprised when your teammates become extremely disappointed in what they may think is your partnership's naivety.

TedJune 24th, 2016 at 5:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

Also on BWTA, if South were a bit stronger, say exchange the spade K and club 8, would 2S suggest he has three hearts and probably something like a 1354 or 1345 pattern unless he is looking for a spade stopper?

Would 3H by North “guarantee” a five card suit?

Would any 3 level bid by North merit a further bid by South?


Bobby WolffJune 24th, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Hi Ted,
You say exchange the spade K and club 8, but you do not say for what.
If South was stronger, his 2 spade bid, only asks for partner (North) to do something intelligent (SI) which usually would be 3NT, but might only be a stronger raise in hearts, partner holding 18-20 hcps and would then convert 3NT to 4 hearts. By contrast a simple raise to 3 hearts by South would be something like: s. Ax, h. QJxxx, d. AJx, c. AQx which might be simply described as "classic".
SI could mean merely returning to 3 hearts which might be 5 or even 6 hearts with almost no hcps, or while holding only 4 hearts bidding 3 of a minor with 4-4 or 4-5 with only 0-5 hcps or jumping to 4 hearts with 5+ hearts and 5+ hcps, to 2NT with spades stopped and 3-5 hcps or 3NT with spades stopped (preferably not with the ace and 6-8 hcps and with either any 6-9 hcps and only 4 hearts bidding 2S especially with the ace of spades hoping to get partner to bid NT holding the queen (for lead purposes).
Remembering the specifics above is rather unimportant, but ALWAYS (forever) thinking of the concept of what you are expected to do is the key to moving up the ladder, without which, a person might be better suited for Gin Rummy or Poker.
EVERYTHING in bridge bidding is related to what it takes to now better describe one's hand assuming (most important) that every bid, not just the last one, is CRITICAL for success. And just add that to life outside bridge and one can only begin to understand how bridge when learned while being young can then see the logic of everything one does, whether good or not so, is important in life and lying rather than telling the truth just does not cut it in either game, bridge nor life, not if one tries to get the best out of his or her partner.
Strong recommendation to follow.