Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 22nd, 2019

An act of God was defined as something which no reasonable man could have expected.

A. P. Herbert

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


What do you think would be the relative fates of four hearts and three no-trump? At the Gold Coast last year in a teams match, one East-West pair pre-empted to two spades, but it didn’t prevent their opponents from finding their way to four hearts by North.

It looks natural for declarer to cash the diamonds to pitch the spade loser, then play on clubs. The defenders can shift to trumps, but then declarer arranges to ruff out the clubs. Alternatively, the defenders can force declarer to ruff in hand — but he can ruff diamonds low and, if necessary, a third round of spades high.

What you cannot do, however, is play three rounds of trumps early — which was what happened at the table. Now the 4-1 club break meant that the defenders could force the North hand and leave declarer short of entries to set up clubs, so he ended with just nine tricks.

In the other room, Danny Sprung had the delight of playing three no-trump here on a spade lead. He ducked the first spade, won the second and cashed his hearts. After the last heart was played, East held three cards in each minor. West came down to three spades, the bare club queen and two diamonds. That was fatal; declarer could play three rounds of diamonds, which endplayed East to lead clubs into dummy’s tenace for the ninth trick.

West’s problem was that he did not know who had the last spade — and I’m not sure how the defenders could have signaled to get this right.

It feels right to re-raise to three diamonds. With so little defense to the majors but a good fit for your partner, you should be able to take nine tricks, or the opponents must be able to make a partscore. For the record, the bid of a major here would show a stopper and fit for diamonds, with a maximum.


♠ Q 7
 10 8 5
 Q 4 3 2
♣ A J 10 7
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 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


Patrick CheuMarch 8th, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Hi Bobby,As East held such good clubs on this hand,he might have discarded J or TC on the hearts to indicate his entry and therefore has the third spade as well..and if he has not the third spade play follows the main line and West has 50/50 guess again. Though a lot of people play Mckenney or Lavinthal discards,some play 9+ discard as suit preference.Or could the heart pips be used to indicate diamond or club preference by the order of following when declarer cashes the hearts? Again a possible inference that East may have a third spade in another hand..regards~Patrick.

A V Ramana RaoMarch 8th, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
At second table, perhaps west should have discarded that Q of clubs ( which is an unnecessary baggage) on one of the hearts and then east can cooperate by ditching Q of diamonds and west is bound to enter to cash his spades. Perhaps not too difficult to work out while declarer cashes his hearts.
And coming to first table, after pitching the losing spade from table on the high diamond, south can ruff a spade in dummy ( perfectly safe after east’s three spades bid) come to hand with a trump and lead club and when Q appears , west is allowed to hold the trick and now there is no way south can get defeated as west has to provide entry for ruffing diamond or spade in dummy ( if it is a spade, dummy ruffs high of course)

bobbywolffMarch 9th, 2019 at 2:56 am

Hi Patrick & AVRR,

The simplest way to show suit preference is in the order of trumps when declarer starts drawing them. One doesn’t even have to wait for the third one when East discards his 5 then 8 of hearts West then is on notice that clubs is where he has the defensive strength.

However, on other hands the enemy is also listening, alerting the declarer to always playing the hand to maximum advantage.

Therefore the cat and mouse game begins and one of the difference making qualities of a winner is to learn to tell partner when it is necessary and when not to when that information is at least as important to the declarer as it is to the defense. When that time comes it is better to give opposite strength showing signals or even against very experienced opponents even a double, double, cross should be considered.

Which is which? At a certain moment in improving one’s game a player will know when to do what to whom, making him a much tougher opponent to play against.

Any volunteers for that moment?

Patrick CheuMarch 9th, 2019 at 8:15 am

Hi Bobby, Look forward to that moment as and when..:)

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