Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.


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



Imagine you are playing four spades here, in a team game, on the lead of the club queen. How would you plan the play?

At one table declarer saw nothing better than taking the spade finesse at trick two. East lost no time in winning and shifting to the heart queen, South covered and the defenders took their heart ruff. East could now exit in clubs, and declarer was reduced to taking the diamond finesse. When it failed, so did the contract.

However, declarer had missed a subtle extra chance for his game, and the declarer in the other room managed to spot the winning line. All South had to do was to cash his second club winner at trick two, eliminating that suit from both hands. Now when East arranged to take his heart ruff, he was firmly endplayed, since he had no trumps or hearts to lead, and a club would allow declarer to discard one diamond from dummy via the ruffsluff, and one on the fourth heart. Stripping out the clubs had completed the endplay at no cost, and this time it made the difference between success and failure.

The alternative line, of playing ace and another spade, might cost the contract if the heart queen and diamond king were wrongly placed. So even though it might succeed (and you might consider rising with the spade ace against a weak defender if you led the spade queen from hand and West ducked smoothly) it is certainly not the percentage line.

Clearly you will raise hearts, but what is the right way to do that? A preemptive three heart bid seems like an underbid with a working seven-count. I also feel that the raise to two hearts, is too little, a jump to four hearts too much. Many players play a jump cue-bid of three diamonds here as a mixed raise: four- or five-card support and about 7-9 HCP. If this is available, it is the perfect description.


♠ 8 6 3
 A 7 6 5 3
 8 5
♣ Q J 7
South West North East
  1 1 Dbl.

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David WarheitAugust 3rd, 2016 at 10:05 am

Cashing the 2d C winner at trick 2 works only because E has specifically SKx, singleton HQ, & DK. You say there is “no cost” in cashing that 2d C, but there is if E has singleton C & W has SK. Both of these situations are wildly unlikely. I’m sure there is a difference but it is probably in the range of a few hundredths of one percent. So, my condolences to the first declarer, who wins the award as the unluckiest declarer of the day.

bobbywolffAugust 3rd, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you certainly could be right in your judgment of which unlikely probabilities are more so.

However, when that analysis takes place, and after trick one, the possibility of an unbid 8 card suit with either opponent, especially with West (immediately over a 1NT opening, even while vulnerable) appears, at least to me, the most unlikely.

Also, when an apparent safe strip of a suit is available sometimes, not necessarily on this hand, to do so, which, in turn empowers a miss defense in the form of an usual favorable ruff sluff sometimes magically appears from a frustrated defender who does not want to open up another suit.

While I am not agreeing nor disagreeing with your warning, I do think that on this hand and similar, possibilities for creating a defensive error, as a general policy, should also be a declarer consideration.

Thanks for pointing out what is possible to happen, even though we may differ on the likelihood of its appearing.

However I do think, as a matter of course, that if declarer throws the queen of spades out there it is very unlikely that West will refuse to cover it (assuming he has it) making the ace and another spade a realistic possibility to select (when West, in fact, does not cover, keeping in mind that if West had 4 of them (to the king) and, then of course, did not cover that on many other card combinations declarer could still eventually succeed in his game contract.

And the constant beat for declarer of weighing his overall choices and then choosing what he considers best, seems to continually be a theme in who wins and who doesn’t.