Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Giving up is always an option, but not always a failure.

Cameron Conaway

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


Against four hearts West leads the club 10. East wins, plays the club king and ace, then leads out the jack. You win the club queen and play the trump ace. Alas, West discards a spade. Is there a way to make a 10th trick?

The 3-0 trump break has ruled out using dummy’s trump 10 as an entry to your spade ace and king. Since the diamond king is marked in the East hand there is no point in leading a diamond. Instead, you should try the effect of the trump nine. If East is caught napping, he will win the trick and you will be able to reach dummy to cash the spade winners.

Today, East will allow the trump nine to win. You will then need the deal to be similar to the one shown here. You must hope East started with exactly three clubs. You exit with a low trump to dummy’s 10 and East’s jack, leaving him with no good return. The spade queen will provide access for you to dummy’s two spade winners. But if instead he exits with a low diamond, you will run it to dummy’s queen. Then you will discard your remaining diamond loser on a top spade.

Incidentally, if dummy’s hearts were 1-0-7-2 you can lead the heart nine on the first round of trumps, and overtake if West discards. Then East must win, and even if he was dealt a 3-3-3-4 pattern originally he will have to lead a heart round to dummy’s seven, or let declarer reach dummy with a spade or diamond.

It is tempting to bid one spade here, but that should show at least a five-card suit. The best call to show values, at least tolerance for diamonds, and a maximum pass. This double can be referred to as Snapdragon, Competitive, or a Fourth-suit double, but they all mean approximately the same thing.


♠ A K 10 3
 10 5 2
 Q 6 4
♣ 5 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 1 1

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1September 22nd, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

Two quick questions on BWTA: if East had passed, is it OK to bid 1S on a 4-card suit in this situation or is this partnership agreement?

Second question: on the auction posted, what do you bid if we swap DQ with a rounded card (so same hcp and shape, just the location of the queen is in one of their suits)?

Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Good bridge forces players to make close choices.

Bidding rules (such as above concerning responding to partner’s overcall) violating one rule or the other is often involved. In this case is having enough to respond, but no specific bid is without fault.

My guess is that if the queen, not being in diamonds is in one of their suits, the temptation would be for me to respond either 1 spade (violating not having five) or 1NT, a descriptive bid, of course, not perfect, but close.

Another comment worth making is that, unless the opponents are known overbidders, chances are they will buy the hand in one of their suits since partner’s one diamond overcall may just be lead directing with good diamonds and very little else. If so by bidding 1NT you may be giving away the location of that rounded queen you have, allowing those opponents to make an extra trick when they wind up being the declarer. Also, by bidding one spade instead you will have the advantage if LHO becomes declarer, to get partner off to the right defense by leading a spade so that you can return a diamond through declarer’s hypothetical king.

Sometimes in bridge (as in love) “little things mean a lot” and being a good partner in bridge is constantly trying to make partner’s task easier.

A lot is said above about a casual bidding problem, but the above thoughts should be ever present with any aspiring player who intends to get better results in the future than he has in the past.

As always, good luck!

PS: For the opening lead reasons given above do not raise diamonds with three small, for fear of partner leading them (without solidity).

BryanSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 2:34 pm

On BWTA, why with maximum pass values and shape, would pass not be a choice? What do you gain by a double? Did not take up any bidding room. Not setting up for a possible opening lead hint for pard. etc.

ClarksburgSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 3:07 pm

I can understand why, when East bids, Souths One Spade call would show five (negative Double available to show specifically four).
But I don’t understand why, when East passes, South’s one Spade should still show five.

Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Hi Bryan,

The convention named “Snapdragon” is a call by the fourth seat player after all three of the other players have named a different suit (below the level of three) and now it is your turn.

That convention calls for a double to show partial support for partner (Ax, Kx, xxx with perhaps Qx and Jx to be included, along with likely at least 5 cards in the unbid suit, allowing partner to be able to compete (at his next turn) depending on whether he had extra length in his suit or decent support for yours.

The only disadvantage would likely be the inability to double RHO for penalties, but that wouldn’t usually happen in a month of Sundays so basically nothing is sacrificed by at least making that double a somewhat useful
tool to convey information to partner.

The hand in question has only 4 cards, but since the Qxx with partner is a minor suit, perhaps an exception to the rule is in order, simply to make a spade contract your way a possibility, plus the advantage of having a better chance to get a spade lead from partner, just in case one’s LHO becomes declarer.

Thanks for your questions. Although it is not necessary for any partnership to immediately adopt Snapdragon to their understanding, it should not hurt to learn what other roosters are doing in their respective barnyards.

Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

The original meaning of a double from the 4th hand after all three of the players have bid was for penalties. And for the 8 million players who supposedly still play bridge often (several times a week), it still means exactly that, so your question will only apply to perhaps less than 200 thousand tournament players who have chosen to use double as mostly for take out, depending on specific understandings.

Your post described your partnership (even opposite an overcall, not an opening bid) is negative and guarantees four of the other major, but while IMO that is certainly playable, it is not what would be called routine nor customary,

Delving deeper, since now 1 spade by you, the 4th hand, is NF, only competitive, it would allow partner to pass with perhaps only xx in spades and therefore, in the past, and regarded as standard the bid should show 5+ in the suit bid.

However now you and partner can consider snapdragon, or if declined, discuss ways to keep from having to play sometime 4-2 trump fits when the opponents will have more trumps than you.

Picture partner having s. Qx, h. xx, d. AKxxx, c. Kxxx and having your partner, after the opener has now raised his partner to 2 hearts, wouldn’t or shouldn’t partner now raise you to 2 spades? I know I would and expect you to have at least 5.

IOW the overcall side has altogether different bidding rules than does the opening bidder’s side and most of the differences pertain to length of suits bid.

PeteSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 7:11 pm

It would seem that ducking a heart at trick 4 is a safety play that would work whether or not east has the 13th club. If trumps break two-one, then the heart ten is a third round entry. If not, then east is end-played.

BryanSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Thanks for the clarification. I guess I was thinking there are more negatives,
Ops getting more info to improve declarer chances or for when they are deciding about doubling pard.
By itself, not enough to not use if did not need to stretch.
( this seems like a stretch. Only 4 spades instead of the likely 5 card. No singletons or doubletons. no faces in hearts or clubs. Only Qxx trump support)

Another ? is, what does this imply for passed hands. If I am 4-3-3-3 with 9 points and pard expects I would bid on this sequence, does a pass become informable that it implies even less? Maybe it has a limit of 6 points?

TedSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

From the bidding and the opening lead, East knows declarer is void in Spades, has the CQ and presumably the DA. So a potential endplay can be recognized at trick 1. Would returning the H8 at trick 2 make sense (assuming a 15-17 HCP NT, so that West could have a J)? While unlikely to work, it does take you off the endplay if declarer is unwilling to duck to the H10 that early.

Bobby WolffSeptember 23rd, 2016 at 4:56 am

Hi Bryan,

To make a Snapdragon double, one does not need a good hand only a competitive one. It’s prime value is to show the 4th suit, but also a semi-fit in partner’s overcall. The strength can be almost any with a minimum enough to compete to at least the two level.

Yes, therefore when partner just bids his suit (the fourth) he implies that he does not have as much as Kx in your suit.

Almost all of high-level bridge is involved in a hand not being good, bad or somewhere in between but rather in relation to one’s last action, as the bidding goes around, everyone begins to get a better picture, especially with competitive hands.

Bobby WolffSeptember 23rd, 2016 at 5:04 am

Hi Ted,

Clever of you to think of ducking a heart early, but I guess it is not necessary, especially if East cashes two rounds of clubs at tricks one & two.

Perhaps East’s best chance to defeat the hand may be to do as you say or even win the ace of clubs and lead back the jack. Declarer may play East for AJ doubleton and West then for K109xx and duck. However declarer, by counting points, and therefore not falling asleep at the switch, should expose that ruse.