Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

It has, I believe, been often remarked that a hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.

Samuel Butler

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


When defensive prospects look bleak and it appears that the only chance of setting a contract lies with partner holding a specific card, you should normally put all your eggs in that particular basket. At pairs you may have to consider whether an unsuccessful defense may cost you overtricks, but at teams the equation is normally a simple one.

Today, when North took the transfer to four spades over four hearts, West decided his best chance to go plus was on defense. While the heart king would have been a reasonable opening salvo — allowing West to retain the lead and possibly play through a tenace in dummy — West actually led the heart two, playing third and fifth leads.

As it was, East won his heart ace, then decided dummy’s diamonds looked so daunting that he needed to cash the club ace before declarer’s clubs disappeared on the diamonds. Alas, that left only the diamond ace for declarer to lose, and the contract came home.

The return at trick two is indeed vital to the success or failure of the contract, and clubs is the right suit to attack. However, the right card to return is not the ace, but the 10 — playing partner for either a doubleton club and trump control, or the diamond ace and the club jack.

As long as West has a key control, he will be able to push another club through the moment he gets in. Now the defenders win the two club tricks they need to take the contract down.

It is reasonable to bid one heart here. While this hand does not meet the traditional requirements for a one-level overcall (good suit or good hand), you have reason to believe that a heart lead would be the best start for the defense, and you would also like to compete. If you had 2=5=3=3 shape, the overcall would be less attractive.


♠ 6 4
 K 9 7 5 2
 A 7
♣ J 5 4 3
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


David WarheitDecember 3rd, 2019 at 8:41 pm

Two questions: 1. What do you mean by the “transfer” to 4S? 2. Since each side can make only 3 of its suit, it seems that N made a mistake in bidding 4S, or was he too great a devotee of The Law of Total Tricks?

Bobby WolffDecember 3rd, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Hi David,

You both asked a necessary question and, probably anticipating its answer, gave an example which
defied its authenticity.

What was meant by “transfer” is the often experience, while holding West’s hand and hearing the first two bids, is that when one bids 4 hearts, it is often dollars to doughnuts that North will now bid 4 spades.

However, your accurate analysis of each side being able to only take nine tricks instead of ten, confirms that, at least on this layout, it will be best to allow NS
to go set rather than EW continue to compete to 5 hearts and go down two, likely doubled.

Finally, though the Law of Total Tricks is accurate or close, it does not, (nor cannot) predict which hand every important card lies, taking the exact number of tricks somewhat of a mystery, therefore only an educated guess, making total reliance on that law, still up for grabs.