Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 5th, 2019

In war there is no second prize for the runner-up.

General Omar Bradley

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

*Artificial, setting hearts as trump

**One of four key-cards


When North jumped to four diamonds, systematically showing a balanced slam try in support of hearts, South rejected the try. But after he showed only one key-card, his partner next made a slightly optimistic grand slam try, promising all the key-cards. With all the kings and a little extra shape, South decided he had enough to go for the brass ring.

West had a suitably passive lead against seven hearts in the form of the diamond 10. Declarer needed to decide which would be the master hand, and in which hand he would take ruffs. Sensibly, he decided to take ruffs in dummy, so he wib the diamond ace and carefully drew two rounds of trumps with dummy’s high hearts.

When the heart ace-jack revealed the bad break, South understood that it might be difficult to take the one ruff he needed in dummy. But he found the best line when he cashed the club ace-queen. He then crossed back to hand by leading a spade to the king, pitched dummy’s remaining diamond on the club king, and ruffed a diamond in dummy. He could next lead a heart to his hand, draw the last trump, and claim the rest.

Players tend to assume that any line that needs two favorable breaks will generally require more luck than a line that needs just one. But here declarer played a line that needed very little from both minor suits (East having at least three clubs and two diamonds) as opposed to that player having three or more diamonds. South’s chance of losing to a ruff on his chosen line was relatively small by comparison to the risk of encountering a 5-2 diamond break.

Yes, you could try to land on a pin-head by passing. But it seems like an acceptable risk to get too high in the attempt to find a fit. I would use Stayman, though with all these assets in the short suits, I can imagine that simply raising to three no-trump might be the winning strategy.


♠ Q J 2
 10 9 7 5
 J 4
♣ 7 6 4 3
South West North East
    2 NT Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 19th, 2019 at 9:15 am

I would win the DA and cash HAK. When it turns out that E has 4 H, I would cash SAK and ruff a S. If W had 4 H, I would cash DK and ruff a D. This line essentially requires nothing more than neither opponent having a singleton somewhere outside of trumps and so seems slightly superior than the stated line.

GinnyJanuary 19th, 2019 at 12:48 pm

Looking at the play hand and needing a top, N-S bid up to 7NT, rather than 7 hearts. With 12 top tricks, South started by winning the diamond ace, and put West immediately under the gun with 4 straight heart tricks, and perhaps 2 spade tricks. How can partnership signals – starting on trick one – help West with what to hold?

While I like David’s line best, the lesson of a setting up an earlier ruff is a good one.

Joe1January 19th, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Dummy reversal seems to work if spades 3/3 or 4/2. Thoughts.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2019 at 5:21 pm

Hi David,

Your substitute line is no less than brilliant and, at least to me, a line which varies according to sampling (in this case, trump testing), in cases of tie for first will be my choice (if only to reward the work).

Whether it is better than the column line is for mathematicians to decide, but, and no doubt, it has to be close.

Thanks always for your expertise and then input, which allows all of us to appreciate not only serious thought, but about varying ways, likely the best, of achieving our objective.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2019 at 5:55 pm

Hi Ginny,

Yes, bidding 7NT, instead of 7 hearts, where the 13th trick can come from taking 5 heart tricks instead of only 4, is a possible way of (so to speak) shooting the moon. However, when playing against good players, you will not succeed as often (likely10% or less) as your partnership would prefer.

The key for your plan to succeed is for both defenders to be afraid to throw a club away for fear of declarer holding four instead of three. However, the timing of the discards by each will tend, in a superior partnership, to allow both to discard them to their advantage. Finally West, the holder of 10xx in spades, will early in the hand, fear his partner may hold QJ doubleton but toward the middle will then realize that East will basically hold his QJx with West playing West for the jack of diamonds, without which declarer would have already claimed.

However Ginny, in no way am I even suggesting that your post is not right on, since in so many bridge games going on every day in the USA alone, the number of tricks dropped by so many players will continue to reach epic proportions.

Just do not even begin to count on it when moving up the bridge ladder to success.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2019 at 6:02 pm

Hi Joe1,

Yes, the 5th heart trick (with them as trump) will see this declarer home.

However this hand will not be called a dummy reversal, since that term requires a master trump hand (declarer or dummy starting out with longer trump) but the original longer holder ruffing himself down to a lesser number allowing the originally shorter hand (usually equal to the longer trump holder on defense), to do the drawing of trump from the opponents.

Just trying to define what and why a “dummy reversal” is so named.

Ken MooreJanuary 19th, 2019 at 7:59 pm


Two things on BWTA: Stayman looks to give away too much information. Second, it seems to me that you would need a 5-card suit in either major to produce enough tricks. Bidding 3 NT tells partner that you can support anything that he has.

Bobby WolffJanuary 20th, 2019 at 12:42 am

Hi Ken,

You exert much more effort than is needed to
try and figure out whether this hand will reach to game or not. Sure if your partnership had an 8 card major suit fit (possible in hearts) most experienced players will prefer that chance at game.

And, yes Stayman does give away a bit to the opponents about what to expect and from both the declarer with his response and, also the bidder himself.

However, it would take the best magician ever to always know when to bid, when and how much. Sadly no one (at least, whom I know) could serve that role.

Answer: choose from a multiple choice, pass, bid 3 clubs looking for that heart fit or just bid 3NT and try your luck. That, to me, are the only options so do it and let the bidder celebrate or be sorry, but whatever I prefer to have that happen with my boots on.

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