Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

Trust everybody, but cut the cards.

Finley Peter Dunne

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


On today’s deal, an intermediate jump overcall propelled North-South to a pushy game, when a more normal one-level bid might have seen them subside in part-score.

East’s jump overcall systematically suggested 8-12. South doubled, then upgraded his spade stopper and quick tricks in the side suits to take a shot at three no-trump. East let the spade queen lead run around to declarer, who took his king, since it would have been unwise to duck with the hearts exposed. Declarer next cashed the diamond king, under which East dropped a tricky queen! The 10, if read as a true card, might have persuaded declarer to guess the suit. This way, East thought that declarer was likely to finesse the diamond nine on the second round if he had a doubleton diamond.

Instead of taking East’s card at face value and immediately finessing the diamond nine, South next played three rounds of clubs, ending in hand, with East pitching a heart on the third. Declarer then played a diamond to the ace and scored up his vulnerable game.

Why did he do this? He knew East had six spades and two clubs, leaving five red-suit cards. Many players would have hesitated to pre-empt in spades with a fair four-card heart suit instead of making a simple overcall. So, declarer deduced East’s 6=3=2=2 shape.

Incidentally, East might have considered putting up the spade ace at trick one, then shifting to the heart nine, playing his partner for king-jack-eight-low.

Bid three spades, a natural and invitational call, showing a good suit. The hand is not worth forcing to game, and a spade contract could easily be superior to no-trump. Your weak spade spots might give you cause for concern, but partner can always bid three no-trump if he has tricks on the side and short spades.


♠ A J 9 6 3 2
 A 9 2
 Q 10
♣ 7 6
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣ Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2020. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2020 at 2:17 pm

HI Bobby,

Poor East – if only he’d been dealt D10x! I’ve got to say that South’s subtle inferences on East’s likely heart holding would have been wasted on quite a few of the players I know, though.



Bobby WolffJanuary 15th, 2020 at 4:54 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, of course, with all you say (and implied), while knowing full well, the full implications of a big winner or a big loser looming in the foreground, East and not only his choice of diamond played on the ace, but his tempo, likely quickly, entering into the psychology.

Not a case of brilliancy by declarer, but rather one of experience, thus, at least IMO, the determining factor in the separation of our greatest world players.

Has anyone, including East, had time to think that, if declarer has three little diamonds, and holding only the bare ten, then, rather than the queen being played, on this bidding, the percentage play is almost certainly the finesse, since with spades no doubt 6-2 (or even possibly 7-1) there are at least 4 extra known cards with East, no doubt making it more likely 3 rather than 2 diamonds are held by West (so why play the queen rather than the ten?).

However the queen will strike a more important nerve, which in turn was East’s MO for so doing, but he could be extremely fortunate, and was, that declarer held only 2 diamonds.

However, it didn’t work, since declarer, after doing the best job he could (playing clubs first), but only after suspecting this current East was up to that “probably wrong false card, albeit an overkill to which South did NOT succumb!

Perhaps the percentage play, on the bidding and possibly even after the club distribution reconnaissance is to go all in and take an immediate finesse of the nine of of diamonds at trick two, catering to West having the queen but also to have started with Q10xx, but how about if playing West for the diamond queen, finessing the jack first, in order to pick up the lone 10 with East.

Great players have done that sort of thing, and believe it or not, their percentage of being right will defy a normal person’s belief.

Yes, Virginia, that is what our game is sometimes about, making it such an extremely deft “mind” game, incorporating “feel” and what goes into determining it.

However, the above are only my personal thoughts, but make no mistake, incorporating a great number of years observing it.

MirceaJanuary 15th, 2020 at 8:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

What is your recommendation regarding the strength of the jump overcalls?

Bobby WolffJanuary 16th, 2020 at 2:25 am

Hi Mircea,

In no way could the 2 spade jump overcall be called weak, unless the outside ace and queen would suddenly disappear. It doesn’t quite measure up to an intermediate jump overcall, but might .. if the 10 of spades is inserted instead of a small one, and if so, it would be an absolute minimum for that action.

If a partnership selects to play weak jump overcalls .. a classic could be: s. KQJ9xx, h. xxx, d. x, c. xxx not vulnerable or s. KQJ10xx, h. xxxx d. void c. xxx vulnerable.

If someone thinks otherwise, they need to, along with partner, talk it over with some good experienced players as to what they are doing, since otherwise, they will continue to lose their way in what they are trying to accomplish.