Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day.


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


In today’s deal, South initially decided to play for penalties against one heart, but West naturally introduced his spades. North might have complete with a call of two clubs, but he was not enthusiastic about his wasted major-suit honors. However, South had enough to balance into clubs, and when West repeated his spades, North produced a strong raise, after which South could not reasonably stay out of game.

If West had led the spade ace and given his partner a ruff, declarer would have gone down, but the heart opening lead seemed more obvious. When dummy won the first trick with the heart queen, South took a little time before making the obvious move of playing on trump.

East’s double could have been based simply on a diamond stack, but what if he had a singleton spade? It could cost virtually nothing to take precautions. Accordingly, declarer cashed the diamond ace (since surely nobody could have a diamond void) and ruffed a diamond to get to his hand. Then he led the heart ace, planning to discard a spade from dummy.

West sensibly ruffed in, and dummy had to overruff. South returned to his hand again by ruffing a diamond and led the heart king. West could not trump this, so dummy was able to discard a spade. Now nothing could set the contract.

If declarer had carelessly led trumps at the second trick, East would have put up the club ace, led to the spade ace, and then ruffed a spade to defeat the game.

Your partner has produced a natural and non-forcing sequence, knowing nine of your 10 minor-suit cards. You have at most a queen above average and no reason to assume your partner bid inaccurately when he told you he wanted to play a heart part-score. Pass gratefully and let him try to make his contract.


♠ K Q
 A 10 7 6 5
♣ K J 9 6 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 ♣ 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 ClimieDecember 18th, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

A minor point: the text says East’s double while the bidding shows West doubling. The Gremlin doesn’t matter but, if East doubles, doesn’t this (or shouldn’t this) suggest to West that SA and another is worth trying. He’s likely to lead the heart without the double (unless he’s got SAK) but should the double warn West off the obvious lead? I accept that this principle can be taken too far of course.



Bobby WolffDecember 18th, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, since penalty doubles of game (or, of course slam) contracts have trended (as years pass) to either be slam dunks to seek larger penalties, or, if close (as is likely here) to inform partner how to defend, no doubt including, as you mentioned, the likelihood of very short spades as against the tried and true habit of, unless obvious, leading partner’s bid suit.

Of course the logic of bridge players, while making the game go around (and also, a real challenge) is to constantly be both aware and alert to seek good results by legally helping partner with his decision making, both by proper signalling and not going asleep at the switch during the bidding.

And discussing asleep, apologies for the horrific confusion as to who was the doubler. I need to practice what I preach.

Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Hi Bobby,

No worries on the typo, and it helped raise the question. I was a bit surprised that West went so quietly, though, particularly after East passes 1S suggesting tolerance – there are only 3 losers in spades unless the defence get their diamond ruff(s).



Bobby WolffDecember 18th, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I would have predicted at least a 3 spade original response by West, once East overcalled.

Reminds me of the old bridge tale of another name to call partner if he possessed 8 or more of a suit?

Declarer is the answer, but if asked for a more complete description, perhaps he might say, “I am holding a 2 suiter, both in spades”.

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