Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

The investigation of difficult things by the method of analysis ought ever to precede the method of composition.

Isaac Newton

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



All this week’s deals have a thematic link in that they involve the negotiation of a suit in which you hold the ace, king and jack.

In today’s deal, South straight-forwardly reached the contract of three no-trump when he elected to treat his hand as worth an opening bid. The spade nine went to his queen, as East ducked to preserve communications in the suit. Declarer could count on two spade tricks, bringing his total on the hand to seven top tricks. What would you consider to be the right way forward?

The heart suit looks like the obvious one to go after, but South looked a little more deeply into the deal and realized that the best line in the heart suit might depend on the result of the break in clubs.

So, he cashed the three top clubs and found that he had four tricks in that suit. As a result, he needed only three heart tricks and could afford the safety play of winning the ace, then the king, then leading toward dummy’s jack. When the heart queen put in an appearance on the second round, declarer had his nine tricks without needing anything further.

Had clubs not broken, declarer simply would have cashed the heart king and finessed the jack in an attempt to bring home four tricks.

This deal is a fine example of circumstances altering cases; the best play in hearts is dependent on the number of tricks needed for the contract.

If you play a forcing no-trump, you might take a pessimistic view and respond one no-trump then jump to three hearts to invite game while showing three trumps. Even if one no-trump is only semi-forcing (so that partner passes only with a balanced minimum), you might want to follow this route. Facing a one-spade opener, your fourth trump would persuade you to jump directly to three spades, of course.


♠ Q 6 5 3
 K 7 3
 J 7 4
♣ K Q 4
South West North East
    1 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


Iain ClimieApril 24th, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

In my feckless youth, I used to play a 10-12 1NT at pairs throughout (plus pass leading to compulsory redouble when it got doubled, either escaping or for blood) and the South hand today fits the bill. It really is foul to open an 11-14 NT though – 4333, no intermediates, unsupported honours. If you turned the DJ into the DQ I’d pass despite playing a weak NT. At a pinch, if the clubs were KQ10x or similar I’d open 1C in 3rd NV but really that bid deserved to walk into a 17 count on its left and flat weakness opposite. I know it’s a bidders game, but this does seem a step too far. NV at pairs, perhaps losing 100 instead of 110 / 140 might have an appeal, I suppose.



Bobby WolffApril 24th, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Your analysis, being right on with evaluation with the true overrated nature of the South hand, yes the required 11 hcps, but also 4-3-3-3 (subtraction), no aces (subtraction) and only one suit with a together KQ or any two together honors (still another subtraction).

Also, if East would have seen fit to play the king of spades at trick one (very difficult to analyze, although the nine could have been from 987xx, the lay of the specific cards probably would likely have kept declarer from testing clubs before tackling hearts, leading to a likely set.

And would not North have bid the same, without the jack of hearts, but just a small one? All the above facts lead to your conclusion about the lesser worth of that grungy opening weak NT.

However, sometimes, perhaps more than we know and assuming playing against conservative opponents, by opening even a weak NT, might dissuade their opponents to miss a game, sometimes even 3NT. But how to figure that windfall is anyone’s guess and no doubt living on the edge of often trying to intimidate one’s opponents.

Anyway, thank you Iain for good advice with evaluation. No doubt, at least to me, that you are correct, but bridge, sometimes being the mystery that it is, often finds a way to bite the on target strategist where the sun doesn’t shine.