Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

Sherlock Holmes

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


In most suit contracts, declarer hastens to draw trumps, to keep his winners from being ruffed away. But there are many exceptions to the rule: a crossruff, for example. Today’s deal shows another reason for delaying play in the trump suit.

On this deal from the 1997 Venice Cup, Tobi Sokolow counted out her opponents’ hands by testing the plain suits in order to work out how to tackle trump correctly.

Sokolow ended up in four hearts after West had overcalled in diamonds. West led a top spade; Sokolow ducked, then won the continuation, noting East’s high-low to show encouragement in the suit. A diamond toward the king lost to the ace. Ruffing the spade return, declarer cashed the diamond queen and trumped her last diamond with the eight as East followed suit.

Returning to hand with the club king, she followed with a second club toward dummy’s ace, on which West showed out. Sokolow now decided that West held three spades rather than four, based on the play in the suit thus far. West was known to have a singleton club and was likely to have six diamonds rather than five; otherwise, her vulnerable overcall, missing the king and queen, would have been extremely sporting. East’s carding in diamonds had also suggested an odd number. Since West had three spades, six diamonds and one club, that strongly suggested three hearts in West’s hand.

So Sokolow cashed her heart ace, then successfully finessed West for the queen to bring home her contract.

It’s time for a little science: You do not have enough to drive to slam, and a splinter jump to five diamonds is misleading. I suggest that after Stayman finds a fit, you bid the other major as an artificial call, setting the shown major (hearts) as trump and indicating slam interest. Let partner take it from there.


♠ 9 8 3 2
 K 9 8 4
♣ A 6 3 2
South West North East
    2 NT 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 ClimieOctober 10th, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

An extra pointer is that West hasn’t ruffed in with (say) xx or xxx in trumps although a good player will know not to waste a trump on fresh air, at least if playing teams not pairs. It would have been superb defence from EW if West had held one more spade, East had false carded and West had kept the vital trump holding (of xx) intact, though. In such cases, declarer needs to find an easier game.



bobbywolffOctober 10th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, at least to me (and perhaps likely to you), the mind battles between declarer and his two wily defensive opponents become the essence of high-level bridge.

Especially, as on this hand, a clever declarer is searching for clues as to distribution, but, at the same time, not unduly (often only hopefully) jeopardizing the contract.

With this hand, since West is the overcaller, the length in trump also being with West is the exception, not the norm, so if only left to that fact alone, and, of course then deciding to get the kiddies off the street early, even a championship declarer might likely get it wrong.

However, since this hand lent itself to a relatively safe discovery process, this thorough declarer took the pains to gather the crucial evidence to get it right.

And, of course, your comment went further and suggested that when, and if, West had started with only one or two small trump he would still not trump when declarer led his 2nd club toward the high honor in dummy before he sought out drawing them.

Bridge at its finest which can be played at several different levels once aspiring players arrive at the “up” elevator in their progression to eventual stardom and start addressing the sophisticated situations sometimes presenting themselves during any one special hand.

Of course, thanks for, at least on this test, being the group leader.

Leaking Roofs SydneyOctober 15th, 2018 at 12:55 am

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