Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 3rd, 2019

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.

G.K. Chesterton

W North
Neither ♠ Q 7 5
 K 5 4 3
 A K Q 7
♣ A 8
West East
♠ 10 4
 J 6
 J 9 8 2
♣ Q 10 7 5 3
♠ A 9 8
 Q 10 9 8 7 2
 6 4
♣ 4 2
♠ K J 6 3 2
 10 5 3
♣ K J 9 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 2
2 ♠ Pass 3 Pass
3 NT Pass 4 ♠ Pass
5 ♣ Pass 6 ♠ All pass


On today’s deal, South became declarer in a dicey spade slam after an enterprising, but revealing, pre-emptive overcall.

North opened one diamond, and East bid two hearts in an attempt to cramp the auction. When South bid two spades, North cue-bid three hearts before removing South’s three no-trump to four spades, showing a raise to game with extra values. South had a great deal in reserve and cue-bid five clubs, persuading his partner to bid the slam.

West obediently led the heart jack, taken in declarer’s hand. Protecting against a singleton spade ace on his right, South crossed to the club ace (safer than a diamond, which might have allowed the defenders a ruff) and led a spade off dummy. East went in with the ace and returned a heart, hoping his partner could ruff. Declarer threw a club from his hand and, after winning the heart king, decided it would be too committal to try for a club ruff, since he had so many other chances.

So he drew the remaining trumps, and when East followed to all three rounds, declarer could see that a diamond break or working club finesse was unlikely. He cashed the diamond king and ace, then ruffed a heart to confirm the count of that suit. Finally, South played off his last trump, and West was caught in a squeeze. Forced to keep his diamond guard, he let go of a club. Dummy pitched the diamond, and now declarer played a diamond to the queen. Since East was known to have a club and a heart left, South played a club to his king for his 12th trick.

Your good intermediates argue that you have just enough to compete to two hearts. Your partner is probably relatively short in hearts (a singleton would not be surprising), but your spot-cards guarantee you can hold the losers in the suit to three as long as you can avoid defensive ruffs.


♠ A 9 8
 Q 10 9 8 7 2
 6 4
♣ 4 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Dbl. 1 ♠ 2

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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 WarheitOctober 17th, 2019 at 11:06 am

If S was worried about a D ruff, then he believes that E may have bid 2H on only at best Q109xxx of H and CQ (he clearly believes E does not have 7 H by his discarding a C on E’s H lead). So I think it is better to cross to dummy in D rather than CA, thus preserving the chance that E has Jx of D. If E should (very unlikely) return a C after winning SA, win the K to preserve all chances.

bobbywolffOctober 17th, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Hii David,

No doubt, and while playing this possibly precarious slam, declarer, because of East’s overcall, needs to make the kind of decision he did with little to go on, except his experience of what players of East’s nature, may venture that shaky heart preempt with equal NV status.

When he decides to lead the first spade from dummy (catering to the single ace with East) he then, in the absence of either a hesitation or maybe just a hitch from East before he rises with that ace, to proverbially decide to perhaps ruff the second heart high in hand, catering to a 3-2 spade distribution and an eventual right guess as to a minor suit squeeze on West (long diamonds, including the jack and the club queen or, of course, not a 100% ban on a 3-3 break)

This type of hand is perhaps the most difficult for the vast numbers (at least in the past) who love our game, but have trouble keeping up with and also imagining both his opponents original distributions, keeping in mind their thinking by, among other subterfuges, the tempo of their discards. in order to determine who started with the club queen (it is, of course, obvious that West will always keep 4 diamonds to the jack, having defensive priority, unless and until he could be sure partner will be able to also keep 4 diamonds, a very unlikely possibility.

IOW, declarer, in addition to keeping specific mind to both defensive hands, might need to guess who started with the club queen at the climax of this hand, with the looming possibility of a heart club squeeze against East, if in fact East does return a club at trick two, causing declarer to lose out with finding the diamond jack only a doubleton.

However, I certainly agree 100% with you that East, with no practical positive reason (but instead a negative one), would ever return a club (I may be wrong here, but as Jim2 reminds all of us, his head starts to hurt), when in with the spade ace.