Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

*Both minors, 11-15


At the world championships held in Rhodes in 1996, this deal came up in the qualifying match between Iceland and Yugoslavia. Matthias Thorvaldsson had a road map printed for him by the defense, warning him of the bad breaks — and the safe route home.

When West opened an artificial two spades to show both minors and 11-15 points, Adelstein Jorgensen could overcall three diamonds. That specifically showed both majors with better spades (a call of three clubs would have shown both majors and better hearts). Thorvaldsson guessed to bid three hearts, and East — knowing his partner had opening values — quite reasonably doubled for penalties. He was a little unlucky to find his partner with a minimum and both opponents with something to spare for their bidding.

After the defense of two top clubs and the diamond ace West had to decide what to do next. A club, ruffed with the seven and over-ruffed might look best, but declarer’s trump spots are good enough for a cross-ruff now. If East wins and plays a trump back, he allows declarer to ruff out the spades and draw trump.

So at trick four West played a second diamond, and Thorvaldsson ruffed, took the top spades, then cross-ruffed two more spades in hand and two diamonds in dummy. Finally he cashed the heart ace and in the three-card ending he exited with the club jack, throwing dummy’s last spade. East had to ruff his partner’s winner and lead away from his trump tenace at trick twelve into dummy’s king-jack.

I would once said have bidding two clubs was obvious. I’m not so sure, any more, given how often players double on offshape hands with both majors and short clubs. Since pass here is neutral, not an attempt to play, I will pass and let partner pick a suit. If he selects hearts that is fine by me, if spades I can remove to two clubs, implying no great confidence that this is our best spot.


♠ 9 8
 A 9 8
 7 5 4
♣ J 8 7 5 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Rdbl.

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