Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft.


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



In today’s deal from last year’s World Youth Teams, Ida Gronkvist of Sweden reached four hearts from the short side, rather than the easier three no-trump.

She won the spade lead and played a heart. When West won the ace, the contract turned out to be simple to make. If West played two more rounds of spades, declarer could ruff in the short hand; nothing else would threaten trump control.

Had both defenders ducked the first trump, a second round of trumps would have been fatal. West would win his ace and play two more rounds of spades, with East winning the next heart to lead another spade and wrest trump control from declarer.

Instead of continuing trumps, declarer would have had to play three rounds of clubs, then pitch a spade as West ruffed in. South would ruff a second spade in dummy and again need to refrain from leading a trump. Instead, declarer would take two top diamonds in hand and lead a fourth club to discard dummy’s small diamond. A further spade play by East after ruffing this trick could be ruffed in hand, and the diamond queen discarded.

The contract can only be set on an initial low diamond lead by West. He then ducks the first trump; East wins and returns a diamond. West then wins the next trump and leads the diamond 10, ruffing out dummy’s queen and setting up a diamond for himself. Finally, East shifts to a spade, dislodging declarer’s entry to the clubs after drawing trumps — and declarer is sunk.

Whether you play transfers or not is, in a sense, irrelevant here. The key point is whether you want to show hearts and let partner play three no-trump with a doubleton, or whether you want to insist on hearts. I say insist on hearts. Unless partner has six solid clubs, no-trump rates to be best; if you can transfer there, so much the better.


♠ 8 4
 Q J 10 9 2
 Q 7 6 4
♣ 10 5
South West North East
    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


Iain ClimieSeptember 10th, 2019 at 9:18 am

Hi Bobby,

Remarkably intricate play possibilities on today’s hand, and thanks for that. I’m a bit confused by the mixed messages in BWTA though. You say ” insist on hearts” but then “no trump rates to be best” – surely it is worse unless partner has running clubs. I suspect Gremlins but can I check that your suggested action is to transfer (if played) and then bid 4H rather than 3N?

5-4-2-2 is often suggested as better for suit not NT while, if partner has only 2H (and not AKx or similar in diamonds) dummy’s hearts are likely to be dead. Ironically if partner has (say) HKxx and DAKx, this could be an annoying hand where there are only 9 tricks in both hearts and NT. That might even apply if partner has HAKx.



Bobby WolffSeptember 10th, 2019 at 11:35 am

Hi Iain,

With certainly no surprise to me (and, no doubt, countless others, all you say is true, including the major glitch with the BWTA).

It should simply have said that unless partner has six solid clubs (or semi-solid) four hearts (especially with the nine of hearts included)
likely figures to be the contract of choice, ahead of the NT game, even with being short of a combined eight trumps.

However, as many great players admit, our sensational game has its own personality, one which is basically logical, but not without some devilish instincts.

Furthermore, there appears to be no real pattern, such as almost always needing eight combined trumps instead of seven for a major suit game to override 3NT, but rather the specific texture of the other suit honors (often involving almost no side losers) for a suit contract to override the other side of the coin of one long and strong suit and enough stoppers to slink home with 9 top tricks but no more.

Thanks for your clearly presented aberrations which only too often, continue to confound, even the best players.

Transparent cards anyone? The only votes for yes, would probably come from the very best analysts, but probably not, from the ones who thrive on off-the-charts table judgment

jim2September 10th, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Once North has bid 4D, is there a way for South to play 4N?

For example, would 4S by South be a slammish cue bid, or would it tell North to bid 4N so that South could pass?

Would 4N by South be to play, or would it ask for aces?

IOW. just how unilateral was North’s bid?

Iain ClimieSeptember 10th, 2019 at 2:59 pm

HI Jim2,

No reason I can see why South couldn’t hold (say) Axx x AKx AKQxxx or even Ax x AJx AKQJxxx and H5-2 are not that unlikely either.

Hence my answer to your question is probably 8 or more out of 10 in numeric terms. There again, it could be just me wanting to hog the hand and all’s well that ends well.



Bobby WolffSeptember 10th, 2019 at 4:50 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Jim2, Yes, a 4NT rebid by normal standards is 100% to play, not anything else.

4 spades would then be a cue bid for a heart slam, eg. s. Ax, h. AQx d. K, c. AKJxxxx and
with. s. Axx, h. AKx, d. Q, c. AKQxxx or even c. AKJxxx, I’d just fly to 6 hearts for what could be called a “real” slam try”.

While I wouldn’t dare call 4 hearts by North unilateral (unless, of course he did the wrong thing or even was unlucky). but in either case went set, while I could make 3NT, it is indeed nice, not to mention heartwarming, when partner almost always has the talent and the experience to be at the very least, very close to the mark! IOW, for South to continue over partner’s 4 heart bid needed a substantial heart holding and at least the AK of clubs (allowing them to be usually set up with Axx of spades instead of only Ax extraordinarily important, not necessarily to not lose a spade trick, but as an entry to hand to finish drawing trump, without partner needing short enough clubs (or the lovely queen or jack) . IOW Axx in spades will allow a slam bid or try with perhaps only AK doubleton in hearts, but to try that at home is precarious, however NEVER FORGET it is just as dangerous to miss a virtual laydown slam as it is to bid a virtual no play one.

IOW for partner to just willy-nilly bid 4 hearts with 6 small hearts would show (at least to me) both inexperience or worse, something never to expect from one’s OX (affectionate for partner, even though it would turn out to be the winning effort on any one hand).

BTW, it would be the immediate perfect time to tell partner how you do not agree with his 4 hearts bid as soon as he finishes and has a wry smile on his face. Criticism, when things are going well is the right time (if ever) to speak up.

And finally Iain, while I might not agree with your exact percentage numbers I do appreciate your assessment so thanks for that. However, if the strong hand has a small singleton heart and doesn’t overrule his partner’s 4 heart choice it is very likely he will need a discussion (with no deadly weapons brought by either) at that time.