Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 29th, 2019

How various his employments, whom the world calls idle.

William Cowper

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

*Game-forcing in spades with
  short hearts


When a partnership has the Jacoby two no-trump available for slam-interested raises of partner’s major, the initial splinter jump tends to need partner to have real extras — or a perfect fit — to consider slam. In this case, when North jumps to four hearts (a splinter bid for this pair, not a natural jump), South has a highly suitable heart holding but a dead minimum, so he signs off in game.

On the lead of the heart queen, South should try to develop dummy’s clubs, but he can still fall back on a successful finesse in diamonds. So, he wins the first trick with the heart ace and draws trumps, ending in dummy.

South begins the clubs by leading toward the king, on which East alertly unblocks his jack. South takes his king, then leads a low club toward dummy. Since one club trick must be lost no matter what happens, declarer hopes to duck this trick to East. But whether he wins or ducks the second club, West will get in with his clubs and must then lead the diamond queen. He needs to hope his partner has the A-J-10, or that declarer will be unable to guess what to do with the cards lying as they do today.

If South ducks the queen (playing West for the Q-J-9), he is done for. But he should not do that, since West would probably have led a diamond at trick one with that holding. If South covers the queen, East should take his ace and return a low diamond. I don’t envy declarer his decision now!

Your partner has shown real extras, typically with two or three clubs and at most half a stopper in clubs (or he might have bid no-trump himself). You have too much to sign off in three diamonds but neither your hearts nor spades are really good enough to introduce. I think I prefer a three-heart call to bidding three no-trump, but it is close.


♠ 7 3 2
 K 9 8 5 2
 A J 2
♣ J 8
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 3 ♣ 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 WarheitApril 12th, 2019 at 9:12 pm

It is interesting to note that EW have a worthwhile save at 5H (down 2), b;ut I see at least 3 problems: 1) give S the DK and now 5H is down 3, 2) S might not make 4S, and 3) how the heck do EW even get into the bidding, much less all the way to 5H. There’s also a 4th problem: if they do bid 5H they will miss out on the outstanding play in D which you have described. Your thoughts?

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2019 at 10:58 pm

Hi David,

As I suspect you may agree, undiscovered fits, while holding only 40% of the combined high cards points plus no great distributional advantages, seem to occur more often than realized.

However, depending on the vulnerability and, of course, the willingness of those opponents to bid a making game are key factors as to whether even just getting into the bidding (of course, necessary to consider a save) is even worthwhile.

Here, I would not consider bidding (especially after the first three bids) and/or to consider doubling 4 hearts with Kxxxx (with shortness on one’s right is just sheer folly).

Of course, add to that the defensive partnership gem of EW to which I have been privy to 5 times in my long bridge life (3 as declarer and 2 on defense) makes even the thought of taking a phantom sacrifice, far away.

In truth, at least IMO, for the defense to worry or fret about not taking perhaps a winning save is sheer folly and, if anything, further talk about the possibility is just too unrealistic to consider. Bridge itself (especially against worthy opponents) is difficult enough without badgering oneself with way too many, what ifs.

However, thanks for your question, since no doubt many others might benefit from opinions on trying one’s best to find a reason to bid something, rather than to just go quietly.