Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

They (the people of Uxbridge) will steal the very teeth out of your mouth as you walk the streets. I know it from experience.

William Arabin

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


Some players derive more pleasure from making their contract by a swindle than by executing a textbook play. It’s even more gratifying to achieve the coup against opponents who could use a remedial class at charm school.

In today’s deal, South opened two clubs, and after neither player held back, the final contract was seven hearts. West led his lone trump, and though only 12 top tricks were in view, South was not going to give up lightly. He won and played six more trumps, discarding two spades and a diamond from the table.

In the six-card ending, both defenders had kept all their clubs; West had also kept the guarded spade king as East pitched four diamonds, then the spade nine. Perhaps East-West’s signaling methods were not the most accurate, but when declarer took the diamond ace, West bared his spade king to keep the clubs, and the defense was over.

Declarer unblocked spades, came to the club ace and took the last three tricks with his spades. Then, having scored up the board, he could sit back and enjoy the East-West allocation of blame.

Where would you put the responsibility, and how can the defenders do better? Once they see declarer’s seven hearts, each defender can count his 12 top tricks. Both should see that when neither discards a club, their partner has four. So East must keep clubs, and his partner must pitch them to protect spades. Maybe at trick eight, West can work out what to do, but it isn’t easy.

Hearts cannot be the right place to play here, but should you bid three spades and try to maneuver partner into three no-trump, or just revert to four clubs? I think the former action is more flexible, though it may be easier for partner to bid three no-trump than to make it.


♠ A 9 5
 7 6 5 2
 8 7
♣ K Q 7 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1
1 Pass 2 ♣ Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 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 ClimieAugust 22nd, 2018 at 11:04 am

Hi Bobby,

Nice coup today, although West should ask why South (if holding SQJx / Qxx and CAx) is baring the SA when he has more sensible discards available. Also, if South has either of those holdings, West is toast so should defend accordingly, while East’s failure to drop a safe club from 10xx is curious. On BWTA, something strange is happening.

it looks like partner has 6C and 3H plus around 14 pts (with 5C and 3H he might have raided hearts or rebid 1N). if so, the opponents haven’t done much bidding with their diamond and spade fits. If partner is 2-2 in the pointed suits, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a little more noise from the opposition e.g. a double or 1S bid from West, or 2nd round action from East if he has fair values and maybe 6-4 in diamonds and spades. With only 5D, I’d expect West to dredge up a token raise.



bobbywolffAugust 22nd, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Good theoretical bridge detective work on both the subject hand and the BWTA.

Yes, on the hand, almost any three clubs held by East should alert West to the simple expedient strategy that (since the location of the minor aces is not a mystery) East must be holding 4 of them originally, pinpointing declarer for what he is doing, creating a great bridge heist (attempting to steal an impossible grand slam).

No doubt there is a huge advantage for both defenders to be worthy, but after all, don’t we all strive to live up to what partner thinks he deserves.

And with the BWTA, again you are on target with your reasoning about the opponents not being in the bidding, but in the distant past and in America when the Roth Stone system of needing extra values to come into the bidding early (both with minimum opening bids and, of course with demanding stronger hands for normal overcalls). Their methods had much early success until their opponents became wise to what they were doing and found ways to obfuscate them from making up what they earlier decided to hide.

Yes, bridge evolution has handled most attempted coups (those of the militant variety) except for just getting around to deal with what was always the elephant in the room, despicable cheating with devastating illegal signals.

However, those miscreants are now being dealt with, thanks to heroic help from bridge giants (and of course lovers) from around the world in spite of organized misdirected sympathy for them from some specific countries who are just too blind to realize how horrible that heinous crime materially effects our beloved game.

Bill CubleyAugust 22nd, 2018 at 6:53 pm

I hope declarer was Horace Rumpole who often appeared before the Uxbridge Magistrates. He was a very keen observer of human behavior. which caused him to win many cases. And bridge hands.

bobbywolffAugust 22nd, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Hi Bill,

Perhaps Mr. Rumpole will indeed decide to use his probable extreme bridge expertise to teach legal deception, at least to me, the most underrated talent necessary for top flight bridge, at the very least, the ability which separates from one another, the top stars of our game.

Ken MooreAugust 22nd, 2018 at 8:36 pm


Maybe I am just in a bad mood today but it seems that everyone made obvious errors except South.

West should see that if South has the Queen, he must keep the King guarded and thrown Spades.

East should see that he cannot protect Spades regardless of where the King and Queen are and kept Clubs.

North needs to learn that 5D is asking, not directing. If South had know that there were 2 Kings missing, he would never have gone to seven and you would not have had this as a column.

BTW, I hate kibitzers but I am hiding safely behind the cloud.

Ken MooreAugust 22nd, 2018 at 8:37 pm

Oops! I meant West should throw clubs, of course.

bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2018 at 2:20 am

Hi Ken,

Not exactly. Iain gives the best description of the defense and its worth stating that when a partner bids 5NT after asking for aces, he suggests a possible grand slam (obviously having all four suits 1st round controlled) allowing his partner to use his judgment about bidding a grand slam. The fact that he had the queen of clubs with his king could easily be the 13th trick and in a sense enabled the miss defense.

Therefore perhaps there were not as many mistakes made as thought with, at least for NS, the result proving it.

No need to ever hide, since moving forward usually involves stating opinions, and that is all anyone can do.

Bill CubleyAugust 23rd, 2018 at 2:00 pm


Maybe you can do a week of great deceptive hands. We all think tricks stolen are twice as good as tricks earned, to paraphrase Paul Newman [Fast Eddie] in The Color of Money.

One or two of your best efforts would be wonderful to read

bobbywolffAugust 23rd, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Hi Bill,

Good idea and everything willing will likely be implemented, but patience in the way of time (we are perhaps almost 6 months ahead in production with little hope of being able to interchange)

However, I do remember that great line of Fast Eddie in The Color of Money and, no doubt,
“feels” much better than just earning it the old fashioned way.

BTW, two factors to take into account:

1. We now include a fair number of legal deceptive bids and plays along the way.

2. Sometimes, especially in bridge, and ask any high level bridge appeals chairman, there sometimes is a fine line between legal deception and other times, at least some may think, at least, possibly unethical.

However, a likely better definition is when either having to do with the alert system (disclosure), or body language or hesitant and/or too rapid play enter the equation, it tends to influence the bridge police decision.