Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 30th, 2019

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Lewis Carroll

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


This deal, another from the 2018 National American Bridge Championships in Honolulu, presented an awkward declarer and defense problem.

Opposite a passed partner, West did not need to worry about missing a game with his heavy weak two. Because two diamonds escapes for down one, South was wise to balance; if his partner had passed, would East have balanced with two spades? I’m not sure, since I think that typically implies some diamond tolerance — but it would have been feeble for East to pass out two hearts. Be that as it may, North did not give East the chance to balance. Instead North’s optimistic raise to three hearts put his side into dangerous territory. West did not find the spade king lead, putting a low club on the table instead.

Declarer won in dummy to lead a low heart. East took the ace and knew his partner was likely to have a top spade and decent diamonds. The spade queen shift covered all bases. South had to duck, which he did, and now East shifted to diamonds, to the king, ace and four.

When West reverted to spades, declarer could win and draw trumps, then either set up a diamond to pitch his spade, or ruff a club and exit in spades, to throw East in and avoid losing a diamond.

Should West have found the winning defense? He must underlead in diamonds at trick five, thus retaining the diamond queen while scoring a second trick in the suit. East can ruff and exit in spades, and one way or another the defenders will score a fifth trick.

Bid one spade. You do not have enough for a Michaels cue-bid of two hearts, which should show more in the way of general high cards, and more of a concentration in your long suits. One spade is enough. If partner raises, your hand will become much more powerful, but until then go low, not high.


♠ Q J 10 5 4
 A J
♣ 9 8 7 5 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


Bruce KarlsonDecember 14th, 2019 at 1:52 pm

BWTA: Surprised that you would eschew Michaels. Same if non vul? I generally try to show as much as possible with one bid particularly if a one bid hand. Same choice if the HA is switched for a low Spade? I am absolutely not questioning your judgment…simply interested in it’s basis.

Bob LiptonDecember 14th, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Declarer must take his time to decide to play the DK the first time that East inevitably leads it; that’s something for him to think of before playing to the first trick.

Also, East made a mistake in leading the SQ. He should have chosen the Jack. West can easily work out he doesn’t have a singleton or doubleton. That would give south five or six Spades, and he would not have overcalled 2 Hearts.


Bobby WolffDecember 14th, 2019 at 5:43 pm

Hi Bruce,

First of all, I, for one, encourage my opinion being questioned, if for no other reason than to listen and see if my excuse makes sense to you and your regular partner or even just your current one.

Although Michaels can be an effective tool in validating your point about getting two, not just one suit into play, there is, at least to me, and I think others, another somewhat crucial factor.

That being, values, so when and if very weak, which probably happens more often, while I, and my guess you would also make a Michaels cue bid over an opponents 1 heart with: s. A9xxx, h. Kx, d. x, c. KQ10xx instead of s. QJ10xx, h. AJ, d. x, c. 98xxx. Therein when and if one’s LHO now raises hearts to the 3 or 4 level, then partner will have a much better shot at either coming in or defending when holding. s. xxxx, h. K, KQJx, c. xxxx.

Yes, it is true, sometimes the vulnerability and the specific opponents will help distinguish the vast difference between using Michaels with a very good or very barren hand, but against better opponents there will not usually be a “tell”, leaving it to your partnership to be consistent.

Sure, there are some good and bad hands to then, as partner of the Michaels bidder to do the right thing, but our game is such that more information obtained becomes the order of the day by both partners if “getting it right” is the demand.

Also, then what happens if the opponents compete to even higher levels that the partner of the Michaels bidder will be left alone on an island to make a decision, only he is supposed to make once Michaels comes into play

However, your point is also valid and my partnerships through the many years, played Michaels as showing the other major and clubs (rather then either minor) in order (just in case those worthy opponents did what they usually do, raise each others suits to whatever level they think proper, then, of course, the partner of the Michaels bidder will be much better placed to know what to do, if partner is only restricted to one minor or the other.

Of course, the disadvantage of that is, if the other major and diamonds are held, then those suits need to be bid one at a time, but, on balance I highly recommend switching Michaels to the other major and clubs, since through the years it has worked quite well for my partnerships.

However either you or your partner may feel differently and if so, go with your own preference as long as there appears to be a reason (frequency of it occurring is one, but it will be difficult to find another).

Bobby WolffDecember 14th, 2019 at 6:21 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, a good ploy to bring up, the king of diamonds immediate play, is a more deceptive play than would be a small one. South has to hope that East’s obvious singleton (to South only) will not be able to be read and since declarer’s other diamond is smaller than East’s seven, that should be the case.

But, although East could be wise to lead his jack of spades (from QJ10) by sometimes confusing declarer to misread the whole hand, that blatant falsecard could also cause his partner (on some hands), to choose the wrong discards later in the hand. When a defender attempts to mislead declarer he always (in an honest partnership) runs the risk of, yes, fooling the other live player, (declarer, discounting the dummy) but has to be very careful it is not his partner instead. In this hand once the jack is falsely led, West will always expect that queen of spades to be in declarer’s hand, except, of course, if the defenders play Rusinow in that situation, which to my knowledge, few do.

Finally, I do not think that East can do anything to allow his partner to think that declarer has long spades, once the bidding has unfolded, the opening lead is made, and the dummy goes down, but whether South or East has the queen of spades will still be unknown to West and continue to be until and unless his partner makes a play to suggest it.

Iain ClimieDecember 14th, 2019 at 7:47 pm

HI Bobby,

In terms of Michaels, a common approach over here is to treat it as weak or strong, the overcaller committing to a second bid (usually dbl) with a strong hand unless the auction has reached dizzy heights, perhaps 3N, although 1H (2H) 4H (P) P should probably trigger a double. Experienced partnerships might distinguish between 4S and dbl. A similar approach is taken with 2N overalls. Do you think this makes sense?



Bobby WolffDecember 14th, 2019 at 8:17 pm

Hi Iain,

I’ll hedge my answer by saying yes, but only your description of it.

In practice, especially against very worthy partnerships, your above treatment, might lead to traps set up by the opponents, knowing your intentions.

As an illustration, if I had a really good distributional hand, eg, s. x, h. KQJ10xx, d. AKJ9x, c. x and heard it go 1H (by me, 2 hearts by my LHO, 3 hearts by my partner, pass by my RHO, I think pass by me would be a psychic which would be likely to work since double would be an overwhelmingly likely follow-up bid by LHO and then I would eventually bid 5 hearts and buy it there, no doubt doubled, but likely where I would guess the best final contract for my side.

Also if I was the 3rd seat partner of a 1 spade bidder and my RHO now Michaeled 2 spades I would bid 4 spades (instead of a prosaic 3) with, s. Jxxx, h. KQ10x, d. Q10xx, c. x laying in wait of then careless, but likely action by my opponents.

Of course, the above can come back to bite me also, but either or type “wonder” bids in several situations with expert bridge bidding players in control seem to have a very mixed type reputation, more on the down side, than what was expected.

However, in truth I am only guessing as to its overall value.