Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

We are using resources as if we had two planets, not one. There can be no ‘plan B’ because there is no ‘planet B.’

Ban Ki-Moon

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


When South opens one no-trump, North uses Stayman and sets the contract in four hearts. On the lead of the club queen, East flies up with the ace and continues the suit. Declarer wins the king and has to decide on a plan. What would you do in his position?

You appear to have a loser in each red suit and two in clubs. How are you going to reduce four losers to three? Your best bet appears to be the spade finesse. After winning the club king, cross to the diamond ace and take the spade finesse. If it loses, you may go two down in your game, but this is a risk you should be prepared to take. When the finesse wins, you unblock spades, cross to the heart king, pitch your club loser on the spades and lead a second trump. If East follows low, you can afford the safety play of the finesse, since if this loses to the queen or jack, you can regain the lead and draw the last trump. If East splits his honors, you win the ace and play the king and another diamond, and the defenders score only one diamond and one trump trick.

Well played, but have you noticed an unusual resource available to the defense? If East ducks his club ace at the first trick, the defenders retain the upper hand. If declarer embarks on the same line as above, East still has an entry to keep South from scoring his trumps separately. No matter what declarer tries, the defense has a countermeasure.

Does it shock you to bid a second time with “only” 5 points? I hope not, because balancing over two hearts with a call of two no-trump to show the minors looks very reasonable to me. Your partner must have been prepared to hear you bid at least one of the minors when he doubled. You may not buy the perfect dummy, but if nonvulnerable I think the potential reward is clearly worth the risk.


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

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 13th, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Speaking of countermeasures: As N, I would have raised 1NT to 3NT. I have enough points, 4-3-3-3 distribution, a mediocre H suit, and therefore little (if any) interest in playing a trump contract. In the play, win the CK (first trick if possible, otherwise 3d), cross to HK & take S finesse. Then duck a H.

Bobby WolffFebruary 13th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Hi David,

As I have previously written on this subject I, as a matter of discipline, have always (or almost) merely raised 1NT to 3NT with a 4-3-3-3 or 3-4-3-3 hand and the requisite number of hcps. The advantage is a small one, but nevertheless I think effective, in that sometimes the opening leader, not knowing that the responder has withheld showing at least one four card major sometimes gets the lead in that suit, when going through the Stayman process may likely alert him not to, but also by the opener’s rebid sometimes help later on the defense, as it materializes.

Of course, once in a while, Stayman wins, reaching a better game contract, but I agree with you the above advantage is superior, except, in the rare occurrence when the opener has chosen this time to have a 5 card major (which unfortunately hits your 4 card fit).

This choice is just one in many bidding situations, when often, the enemy is listening so that the quickest and least informative sequence which makes it tougher for worthy opponents to defend, but whatever risk involved is worth keeping secret to the defense.

The debate will always go on, among the upper echelon in bridge theory, as to whether to always bid scientifically, rather than just bash, which only suggests in today’s hand that Ben Ki-Moon’s quote may have a planet “B” after all, but to just jump to 3NT becomes the best way to win fair maiden, in the form of making nine tricks in NT, although this hand doesn’t really show it, but if East’s hand rather than West was on opening lead, it might.