Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 18th, 2018

Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing.

Friedrich Schiller

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

*Limit raise with three trumps


Zia Mahmood achieved his first reportable coup of the 2001 Cavendish Invitational pairs competition on the very first deal. (And what took him so long, you might ask.) Zia, as South, opened one heart, and his partner, Billy Eisenberg, jumped to three clubs (systematically, to show a limit raise with four trumps or an unbalanced three-card limit raise). Zia tried a delicate six hearts, and Espen Erichsen, as West, led a spade to the king and ace.

When Zia advanced the club queen, Erichsen won with the club king to play a second spade. At this point, Zia had to find the heart queen. He reasoned that Erichsen’s decision to win the club king and return a spade (instead of a trump, or as opposed to letting his partner win the club ace) meant that he must have the heart queen.

Accordingly, Zia, who has never lacked the courage of his convictions, ruffed the spade return and ran the heart jack to make his slam.

I was lucky enough to make the slam against world champion opponents after the defense cashed the club ace and tried to cash the spade ace. Now there were enough inferences for me to negotiate the trump suit, though it was by no means a foregone conclusion to get it right.

While I was happy with my result, I will not name the declarer who made a more expensive play. At another table, Ishmael Del’Monte and Neville Eber got to defend against six diamonds doubled, but declarer misguessed hearts, turning a huge potential gain into a huge loss.

East’s double of one club should not significantly influence your choice here. With a six-loser hand, you certainly have enough to try for game. The question is whether you should jump to four spades or make a game try of three diamonds. I could go either way on this hand.


♠ K Q 6 4 2
 K 7 2
 Q 10 8 6
♣ 8
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Dbl.
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieJune 1st, 2018 at 10:37 pm

Hi Bobby,

Suppose East doubles 3C and West leads one which East wins to play the CJ back. Now what, at least single dummy?



bobbywolffJune 1st, 2018 at 11:19 pm

Hi Iain,

Although it is certainly fair to say that South’s bidding almost (99.99%) guarantees a spade void, since why wouldn’t he check on aces before committing to slam without the spade void. Therefore, and of course, whether either black suit was led from East at trick 2, with my preference a spade, trusting the above 100%, would IMO make it a complete guess as to how to guess the heart distribution with significant advantage to the defense.

To add a small tidbit, for deceptive purposes, I would lead the 9 of spades back, feigning shortness, although we all know to do so, may be baloney. At least declarer will have to deal with West not leading a possible cashing ace while holding his actual heart holding.

All any bridge player can do, as can for that matter, mules, is try one’s best to appear believable, while attempting to rob.

However your query is valuable, if for no other reason other than to introduce legitimate deceptive practices, not too hot nor too cold, to our difficult game.

Although no one asked, from East’s position, the setting trick is almost surely to come from trump, since, because of declarer’s unexpected jump, no where else makes any sense.

However, yes it is wise to not try this kindergarten logic at home.

Bob LiptonJune 2nd, 2018 at 12:14 am

That, Bobby, is why one should always contemplate using Blackwood, even with a void, when one is going to bid a slam anyway. In this case, were the east and west hands reversed, that would incline me to lead the club Ace, since it would indicate that South would be worried about a double of a 5C response in the game o
bluff and counter-bluff.

bobbywolffJune 2nd, 2018 at 12:45 am

Hi Bob,

Yes,different tactics for different situations tend to make that partnership more difficult to play against.

However, when using BW and then bidding it with a void, while normally assuming Captaincy
by so doing, might in several fairly common situations catch partner unknowingly in your own net, resulting in a poor result. Most of those times occur when someone ventures 5NT later, but some also occur in competitive situations when the BW partnership has the last (or so one thinks) word.

Of course, in oft times when slam appears to be in the wind, it is often a good strategic move to blast (Britiish call it punt) a slam, to make killing leads by he opponents less likely to occur as well as make those worthy opponents be unsure of taking a sacrifice or not. And of course, all experienced players are aware of, when BW is used, there is also information given by the artificial response not being doubled as well as when it is.

Sometimes it just becomes too dangerous and non-productive to not be caught in a tangled web, especially when the opposition is fierce.