Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 16th, 2019

There is a loveliness exists, Preserves us, not for specialists.

W.D. Snodgrass

W North
None ♠ 8 3 2
 Q J 6 2
 Q 8 7 4 2
♣ K
West East
♠ Q J
 K 10 9 6
♣ A 9 7 5 3 2
♠ A K 10 9 5 4
 10 8
 5 3
♣ Q 6 4
♠ 7 6
 A 9 7 5 4 3
 A J
♣ J 10 8
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
2 Pass 3 All pass


Today’s deal from the European Mixed Teams Championships defeated most defenders. It focuses on this week’s theme of the defenders needing to promote trump tricks for themselves.

East feared wasting one of partner’s trump tricks if he overtook the spade queen, so he let it hold the first trick. West can now visualize five tricks for the defense: two spades, a diamond, a club and a promotion for the heart king on the third spade. While declarer might finesse in hearts even if his side doesn’t maneuver a trump promotion, South won’t finesse once he knows East has the spade aceking.

However, continuing spades at trick two won’t do. East would overtake and play a third round, but declarer could discard his diamond loser. East could lead a further spade, but declarer would ruff in hand and pitch dummy’s club king, losing just three spades and an over-ruff.

West should follow the normal practice of taking the side-suit winners that aren’t needed for communication purposes before trying for a trump promotion. He must cash the club ace before playing a second spade.

Now West’s heart king will be good for the fourth defensive trick if declarer ruffs in on the third spade, with a diamond still to come. And if South discards, then the fourth round of spades will do the trick.

At other tables, some Easts overtook the first spade and shifted to diamonds. Declarer could now succeed by taking his red-suit aces.

My general rules about whether to bid and what to bid on marginal hands that include a six-card suit start from the assumption that you should always bid immediately with a good six-card suit. Whether you act at the one- or two-level will depend on the specific hand, of course, but this hand has a bad suit and isn’t worth a one-level opener in first seat, so I’d pass.


♠ 7 6
 A 9 7 5 4 3
 A J
♣ J 10 8
South West North East

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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


jim2August 30th, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Once again, an alternate contract seems quite interesting: 3S!

(Not sure why NV East was so shy, btw)

Unless South gets off to a trump lead (instead of the seemingly obvious AH), then declarer should romp home easily, and maybe garner an overtrick.

Even with the trump lead, declarer seems well placed. For example, draw trump, lead small club to the AC planning to lead back to QC (looking for 2-2 clubs, KC onside or singleton).

David WarheitAugust 30th, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Speaking of alternative contracts, how about 4C? Should make with ease.

jim2August 30th, 2019 at 3:13 pm

I do not disagree, but I also do not think either player can bid it. East does not know West has a real suit, and West has no way to know he faces support.

East, however, is staring directly at a 6-carder headed by AK109, and it is a level lower.

bobbywolffAugust 30th, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt East was beyond merely conservative when he didn’t rebid his spades at only the three level, but when using real hands, played and bid in the heat of battle by others, oft times there are surprises.

Obviously though Shakespeare would have been an excellent bridge player, since he did once say, “The play’s the thing” although he may not have been just referring to this hand.

bobbywolffAugust 30th, 2019 at 3:31 pm

Hi David,

Yes making 4 clubs is likely even Wolff proof, but how to get there while holding 8 top spades and hopefully trying to get to the most likely game contract.

The late and great Hungarian bridge author, Darvas, was also a humanitarian when he gave credit to even the lowest cards in the least significant suit when he wrote, “Right Through The Pack”.

Otherwise, till your above comment, we seldom hear much about lowly club contracts in competitive auctions. I hope someone from their Union is reading.

jim2August 30th, 2019 at 3:31 pm

I generally devalue hands with two (or three!) doubletons.

Here, however, the QC can be up-valued.

bobbywolffAugust 30th, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Hi again Jim2,

And no doubt here it becomes a giant even among mere clubs or should we sarcastically refer to its upgrade in “SPADES”, having multiple meanings.

And no doubt your reference to more than one doubleton has more to do with the absence of singletons and especially voids.

However upon a midnight clear and in an important event I once picked up a hand with 4 doubletons, which later was blamed on a defective dealing machine.

However, since during that session my results had not been too swift, I immediately felt a surge of success since I seemed to have fewer losers.