Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 24th, 2018

Art hath an enemy called Ignorance.

Ben Jonson

N North
None ♠ Q 7 5 4 2
 K 9 4 3
♣ A 5 4
West East
♠ K 10
 9 8 6 5 3
♣ Q J 10 8 6
♠ A 9 8 6
 10 8 7
 Q 10 4 2
♣ K 9
♠ J 3
 A Q J 6 2
 A J 7
♣ 7 3 2
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 4 All pass


When North opens one spade and hears a two-heart response, he has three possible continuations. He could raise to three hearts or four hearts, or he could make a splinter raise to four diamonds. Does this last route show extras? The combination of North having a dead minimum and the “wrong” splinter — an ace or small card is much better than the king — persuades him to go low. South has no reason to continue over the four-heart call.

After West leads the club queen, it might seem that South has four quick black-suit losers. But declarer has a top diamond in hand to cope with the slow club losers. South wins the first trick with dummy’s club ace and unblocks dummy’s diamond king. He then gets back to his hand by way of the trump ace and cashes the diamond ace to discard one of dummy’s losing clubs.

The idea now is to make it possible for South to ruff his losing minor-suit cards in dummy. He trumps a diamond, then gives up a club, planning to ruff dummy’s remaining club with the heart king and draw trumps, conceding just two spade tricks.

If the defenders win the second club and play anything but a spade, that is precisely what declarer will do. If, instead, East wins the club king and plays a spade to his partner’s king, for a spade back to the ace and a third spade, declarer will ruff high, then draw trumps ending in dummy, with the spade queen as a home for his last club loser.

Over one diamond, I would probably overcall one spade, but here it feels right to double two diamonds. Since this hand is likely worth no more than one call, I want to keep both majors in play. Doubling seems like the right way to do that.


♠ Q 7 5 4 2
 K 9 4 3
♣ A 5 4
South West North East

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Iain ClimieOctober 8th, 2018 at 11:12 am

Hi Bobby,

Looking at North’s collection of rubbish, when would you open that in terms of position, vulnerability and type of scoring? I suspect I’d open 1S in most instances but I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for not doing so.



ClarksburgOctober 8th, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Hello Bobby
Column said:
“…and the “wrong” splinter — an ace or small card is much better than the king…”
Could this general point be extended to “and a small singleton is the better of the two” ? i.e. ace probably more valuable in a side suit.

bobbywolffOctober 8th, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Hi Iain,

While your judgment on values usually matches mine, I then have no reason to think your bridge mind is nothing short of perfect. (How’s that for self-adulation?)

However, only one not universally recognized factor to consider: Since I believe most experienced players would open this hand (perhaps 80% estimated, because of major suit length and more likely to become declarer) if we then decide not to open, it becomes much more likely that, since the auction then might be varied, that the problem created will lead to a different contract and (especially if contested by the opponents), even a different final declarer.

Add that fact to the mix, and assuming we are one of the better pairs or teams in the room (always a positive consideration whether true or not) the result then, may become skewed, allowing lady luck more of a chance to influence the final result. The above then becomes on percentage, when allowing more of the “luck” factor (not that it is not there anyway) a likely lesser advantage than when we do not choose an opening bid most will agree to make.

Kind of convoluted thinking, but I think valid to consider. Anyway it may serve well in the post-mortem in case it doesn’t work.

Yes, I would open that hand!

bobbywolffOctober 8th, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Hi ClarsKsburg,

Yes, well said, and to help along lesser experienced, therefore newer players, assuming that missing ace or king is made up for in one of the other three suits elsewhere in the hand in question.

While sometimes the feeling of a singleton ace being a more or less perfect holding, comparing holding one with four small in a side suit as against a singleton small and Axxx in that same side suit you and I would choose the 2nd example as better, reason being that the A with three small will jive with (for example) QJx opposite much better than with only xxxx. Just saying…..

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