Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

If one learns from others but does not think, one is still at a loss. If, on the other hand, one thinks but does not learn from others, one is in peril.


W North
N-S ♠ A 3
 Q 7 5 3
 Q 8 6 4
♣ K 9 2
West East
♠ 10 9 6 5 4 2
 J 4
 J 10
♣ J 8 6
♠ Q 8 7
 A 10 9
 7 5 3 2
♣ A 7 5
♠ K J
 K 8 6 2
 A K 9
♣ Q 10 4 3
South West North East
  Pass Pass Pass
1 NT Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 4 All pass


At the World Championships in 2007, Chip Martel reported this play, found by Ralph Katz in the round six match of USA1 against India.

Both tables played four hearts, Katz defending in the West seat after a strong no-trump and Stayman. After a low spade lead, one might have thought that the natural line was to win in hand and lead a trump to the queen, guarding against a significant trump singleton with West. It is not so clear who might be short in hearts on the lead of the spade 10. As the cards lie, this line would almost certainly lead to success.

Both declarers actually chose to win the spade ace and lead a heart to the king, ducking a trump on the way back. At one table, West won his jack and exited with the diamond jack, but it did not matter what he did at this point. Declarer could strip away the spades and diamonds, exit with a trump and claim. When East won the trick, he was forced to open up clubs for declarer, thereby ensuring the defenders could take only one trick in that suit.

Katz was defending in the other room, where he threw a wrench in the works for declarer by unblocking the heart jack under the king. Now when declarer played a second trump, the unblock meant that Katz’s partner, George Jacobs, was able to draw two rounds of trumps and exit with a diamond. Declarer was forced to find the club jack to make his game, and it was poetic justice that he guessed incorrectly and went down.

Bid four spades. You must raise to game, making it as hard as possible for the opponents to find their fit. Who knows — you might even make it! Anytime you have a problem like this, ask yourself what you would do if the opponents bid to their most likely game — here, four hearts. If you don’t know whether you want to save or not, give them the problem first by raising to four spades.


♠ Q 8 7
 A 10 9
 7 5 3 2
♣ A 7 5
South West North East
    3 ♠ 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 ClimieJanuary 8th, 2020 at 9:51 pm

HI Bobby,

Maddeningly for the first West the “When doubt lead trumps brigade would triumph here.

On BWTA, I was surprised to see you suggest that 4S could be on but AK to 7 spades and DJxxx should do it although modern players might bash 4S with that. Sound advice, though, especially as doubles are so rarely left in nowadays.



Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2020 at 5:38 am

Hi Iain,

No, I do not really expect partner to make 4 spades, but bidding it now, instead of the next round when and if LHO reopens allowing them to try and make 4 hearts. No doubt, if we bid later, our result will likely be down 1 with possibly down 2 slightly more likely than making.

Of course the vulnerability not given, as well as some insight as to who your side is playing against, also should enter South’s judgment.

If West does pass, it will be OK since the excellent result of bidding and making this close game is worth chancing an extra down trick (100 instead of 50 or even 200 instead of 100).

Whatever South chooses to do (pass or raise) is sheer guesswork, but in the long run I am much in favor of pressuring the opponents by forcing West into making a very difficult decision instead of allowing him or her to (while holding an average hand, (in this specific position), perhaps about 14 hcps with a singleton or doubleton spade.

All of us need to keep in mind that West, by entering the bidding at the 4 spade level, is taking a rather large risk, since his partner may have next to nothing with you having much more than you do.

IOW, since only talk is involved, neither of us, nor any other reader, can prove either of us or any other opinion, right or wrong. Computer simulation, anyone?…. but in order to do so, we have to agree what an ordinary 3 spade bid will look like and at the specific vulnerability of both sides.