Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Even brute beasts and wandering birds do not fall into the same traps or nets twice.

Saint Jerome

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



North’s heart intermediates in this deal persuaded him to transfer to hearts, then offer a choice of slams by his jump to five no-trump, after which South selected hearts, of course. North could simply have invited slam with a transfer, then a quantitative jump to four no-trump. Had he done so, South’s aces and trump support would have been just enough to let him jump to six hearts.

When West led the spade queen, declarer won in dummy and tested trumps by cashing the ace to guard against 4-0 breaks. Then he drew trumps, crossed to the spade king and found himself at a crossroads. A reasonable line might have been to lead a diamond to the jack, relying on the diamond finesse or the 3-3 break in that suit, with an unlikely minor-suit squeeze to fall back on.

Declarer spotted a slightly different way to make the defenders’ lives just a little harder. Instead of leading a diamond to the jack, he advanced a small diamond from hand and covered West’s card with the eight. When East won the trick, he was end-played, since a diamond return would let declarer claim the rest.

Hoping for the best, East led a low club to the queen and ace. Declarer next cashed the diamond ace and king; when the suit failed to behave, he fell back on his last chance, crossing to dummy with a trump and finessing the nine of clubs.

If East had instead exited with his club jack, declarer would have won in hand and eventually finessed West for the club queen, playing for split honors.

The two-no-trump rebid suggests a balanced 12-14 high-card points (or, very rarely, 18-19 balanced, planning to bid on over a signoff). It is extremely hard to imagine slam making here with no apparent eight-card major fit, so it seems right to sign off in three no-trump, despite your extra values.


♠ A 8
 K 10 9 4 2
 A J 8
♣ A 10 3
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 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 WarheitApril 25th, 2019 at 3:29 pm

When this hand was replayed in dreamland, E doubled N’s 2D bid. S redoubled and W bid 2S. S could no longer make 6H as W would make the (only) killing lead of a D, so NS settled for +800 in 2SX. But all of this could have been avoided had N simply bid 3H over S’s opening 1NT bid. Beats me why he thought it would be better for his partner to be declarer should H be the final denomination since he held tenaces in both C & D.

Bobby WolffApril 25th, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Hi David,

It isn’t that I love science (in bridge) less, but that I love winning more. And, although I am definitely in the minority in preferring 2 way Stayman more and transfers less, my obsession wouldn’t change anything in your dream since, yes a two diamond response to partner’s NT is still artificial and East still has the right to double for a lead, but if he, in fact does, either South, while holding 4 or North holding 3 decent may redouble and if EW doesn’t run to 2 spades, NS will score up +1360 (2DX making 5 vul), still below a well played 6 hearts (+1430).

It now seems that East would now become vindicated to double 2 diamonds for that preferred lead (though difficult to be anywhere near sure about that) but likely worth mentioning, if for no other reason than if needing a good board, sometimes a major distortion (which I would judge a double of 2 diamonds) can sometimes create.

None of the above can rightfully be described as a bridge discussion, only what David labels, a “dream”.

Finally David, you should be ashamed to suggest as an alternative, North bidding an old fashioned 3 hearts to partner’s 1NT opening, a bid that now usually means “beware”, (at least for very serious players), “I hold shortness in hearts” (heart length and strength to be shown differently).

Just because you have made applesauce out of just an apple, does not give you bragging rights, but rather perhaps, just a smile as you sleep.

Bobby WolffApril 25th, 2019 at 4:48 pm

Hi again David,

And picture today’s successful declarer, with the column bidding leading to the final contract, eventually finding out that East started out this hand holding;
s. 10965432
h. 85
d. 97
c. QJ

Whether it is true or not, I now have heard that poor South has not played a hand of bridge since and although only a young man when this hand occurred has now celebrated his 100th birthday.

PS: His minus 100 was not a good result.

Bobby WolffApril 26th, 2019 at 1:29 am

Hi David,

Also, upon further reflection and, especially in truth, a note from Frank Stewart, South can still, as declarer. make 6 hearts with a diamond lead. He does so by eliminating the major suits and then leads a club from North to south and back to North. Then, depending on whether West plays the queen of clubs (on the 2nd club play toward dummy) South will maneuver to throw the right person in by either cashing the ace of diamonds nor not, depending on what West does.

Pretty cute I’d say, 100% proving that there will never be a wrong side to play a contract from as long as Frank is watching.

David WarheitApril 26th, 2019 at 9:05 am

As the cards lie, Stewart is right, although if D are 3-3 with E having the Q, his line fails. But if N is declarer, the contract is cold so long as club honors are split.

While all of the bidding techniques you mention are very good at finding the right denomination and level at which to play, it seems to me that their major defect is a failure to emphasize who gets to be declarer.

Bobby WolffApril 27th, 2019 at 5:31 pm

Hi David,

You initiate a subject which likely is talked about, and contrary to Mark Twain’s famous quote about “everyone talking about the weather but nobody doing anything about it” of course, transfers claim doing something about it.

However IMO and considering how our game feels to me. playing it from the right side is definitely a plus, but the extent of that advantage is probably not as important to me as it is apparently to you.

Especially if all factors are concerned such as the opportunity for the defense to have an extra round of bidding to either bid or not bid as they please (for lead direction or for values) and overall for not only to have additional offensive opportunity, but also to
glean negative inferences from inaction.

However, to my knowledge, no comprehensive experiment has ever been
done to calibrate that advantage so no scientific suggestion can honestly be made.