Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.

Sir James Dewar

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


It is rarely attractive to upgrade 19-counts in first or second seat to a two-no-trump opening. When investigating a slam, starting the exploration at the three-level is rarely optimal. Also, it can be difficult to locate 5-3 fits after a two-no-trump start. So South was sensible to open one spade. He jumped directly to four spades when he found the fit, since his aces and kings suggested a suit contract.

When West led the diamond queen, South could see 10 tricks via a diamond ruff in dummy, as long as trumps broke 3-2. But what if they broke 4-1?

In that case, the way home would be for South to score his small trumps via heart ruffs, thus coming to six trump tricks to go with his four top side-suit winners. But this would require careful planning.

To start with, South carefully won the diamond lead in hand and continued with the heart ace and another heart. East overtook West’s 10 with the jack and shifted to the club 10. Declarer rose with the ace and played the spade queen and a trump to dummy’s king — discovering the 4-1 break.

Now came the diamond king followed by a heart, ruffed low in hand. A diamond ruff with dummy’s last trump was followed by dummy’s last heart. When East discarded his second club, declarer scored his remaining low trump, with the spade ace still to come, for the 10th trick.

If East had ruffed in on the fourth heart, South would have discarded a club instead of over-ruffing, with two more trump tricks guaranteed.

We do not want to introduce hearts — the last thing we want to do is to play in hearts if partner cannot bid them. Raising clubs may not achieve much and could mislead partner about our defense if the opponents come in. Since our kings suggest defense, not offense, I’d pass now and hope to balance later. I’m tempted to try one no-trump, but a free bid suggests a slightly better hand than this.


♠ K 6 5
 8 6 5 2
 K 4
♣ 8 4 3 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ Dbl.

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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 ClimieOctober 1st, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

Just wondering about different leads. A top Heart can be ducked and transposes to the column line but I think a top club has to be ducked or East can get in with a heart to punch a club through (provided he/she has played the C10 at T1 of course). A nice case of where an odd looking play (running the D to the Ace) works when “gut feel” suggests going up with the DK at T1.

On BWTA would your answer be different if playing 4 card majors when the clubs will almost certainly be real?



Iain ClimieOctober 1st, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Hi again Bobby,

As a follow-up, the C10 is an automatic play at T1 on the CK from KQ but what should East play holding Jx here at T1? Give South CA109 and that’s a trick gone. I’m starting to wonder if there is merit in playing reverse attitude and standard count (so high from xx, low from Jxx here).


Iain Climie

bobbywolffOctober 1st, 2019 at 5:41 pm

Hi Iain,

Your analysis of today’s hand would be a high-level bridge instructor’s dream. It isn’t so much detailed as it requires study at trick one, before

Yes, it would be duck soup, to play the king of diamonds from dummy at trick one, if speed of play was the goal in order to then fluidly take a ruff in the short trump hand (dummy) before drawing the opponent’s fangs, aka, trumps.

However, upon reflection (intelligent plan) that cosmetic fluidity can wait until a provision for a 4-1 trump break (with East having the 4) is put into effect, just in case.

And, of course, with this being a column hand, causing the quote to come into play, allowing that parachute to be opened, otherwise a disastrous result would occur.

Yes, that procedure needs to be followed, allowing (as was the column’s intention) to seek another elopement of trumps, a common theme this week eg. winning the first diamond in hand, in order to time the play correctly if a specific misfortune (not so unusual) occurs.

With your BWTA query, yes while playing 4 card majors, there will be far fewer short clubs opened, allowing South a more intelligent simple club raise, in order to best serve his partner’s judgment for future competition (if any) and if not, a more likely 8+ card fit found during the first round of bidding, instead of later, or just as likely, never.

In answer to your third seat signal question, there is not anywhere near, 100% answer, revolving whether count, attitude or practicality becomes pertinent, rather than no difference.

However, on this hand since hearts with its KQ10 rather than clubs with its only KQ9 would likely determine, but from an instructors viewpoint the QJ10 won the right, proving editorial license rules the roost, regardless of lesser, more personal judgment.

Your final question regarding attitude signals is quite thorny with each side having plus and minus factors. And, if that is not enough contentious, please consider the possible ethical conundrums which could arise by slow 3rd seat signals, which more likely than not might unduly influence the opening leader, even though he or she is a normally ethical player.

And speaking of choosing defensive signals, how about partnerships which choose methods
which do not require alerts (probably because of partly being very rare or worse, unduly complicated to explain), and we are getting close to describing the onset and how to, of atomic power and its ramifications.

The above, if you’ll excuse the reference, is enough to blow one’s brain, to kingdom come.