Thursday, August 13, 2009

I heart Aces

Some time ago, I was present at a discussion of a bidding problem


(2S) X (3S) X;
(P) ?

We understood that 4D is the normal bid. We were contemplating the sanity of 5D. I contend that the Ace in the opponents' suit is a serious negative feature of this hand.

To see why, lets look at the power of an Ace

1) Controlling power :An Ace controls the suit. It is a quick trick and a sure trick. The Ace controls the transportation between all four hands. Aces exert maximum controlling power at no-trumps when either side has a long, strong suit.

At a trump contract, their controlling power is often diminished because our little trumps can usually do the same job.

2) Developing power : An Ace complements other holdings within the same suit. Aces help build tricks. Qxx in one hand is practically useless but combined with Axx it appreciates in value to half-a-trick. Similarly J109 starts deriving enormous power if the opposite hand contains an ace.

True appreciation of the Ace comes not from the one trick it takes but the additional half-tricks and full-tricks it adds to other holdings. An ace in the opponents' suit at a trump contract is unlikely to contribute any developing power.

I was highly influenced by a series of phenomenal articles Grant Baze wrote under the heading "Baze on bridge" on OKBridge about ten years ago. I could only find this link.

Partner's hand on the problem posted above was

Notice the difference in the playing potential of the two combined hands if we transform the Ace of spades into the Ace of clubs.


  1. Nice post.

    I know I'm showing my age, but in a book by Jeff Rubens (don't remember the name) back in the (I think) 70s, he talks about evaluating a hand, and refers to "in-points" and "out-points." In-points are high cards that are in your long suit(s) and out-points are the ones in your short suits.

  2. Rubens' book was called "Secrets of Winning Bridge", and it is a must-read.

    Cheers ... Bill Jacobs

  3. I had a very similar problem in the 2000 NEC Cup:

    All Vul


    E S W N
    1S X P 2S
    3S 4H P 5D
    P ?

    Does 4H show extras, or just a 5th heart? Would this be a much easier/harder problem if the SA were the CA?

  4. On Khokan's hand, I would say 4H shows primarily the 5th heart, but it also rules out clear minimums (and the thing that makes this hand better than minimum is that it has 3 bullets).

    Could partner have xxx Qx KQJxx KQx for his 2S bid? Stylistic - maybe he would bid 3S with this hand. Anyway, if he can, I think he would pull 4H to 5D, expecting you to have 3-4 diamonds and a singleton spade, and I should pass 5D.

    Harder if the SA is the CA because hands like xxx Kx KQJxx Kxx are quite playable for 6D.

  5. Ben, I think that pass is a plausible alternative on both your example hands. Therefore, I reckon it's a reasonable bet that partner has a singleton heart. At the table, I bid 6D and Seamus held xxx x KQJ10xx AQx. The club finesse failed, as expected, so 6D was the limit. After a similar sequence, Henky Lasut, at the other table, passed 5D.

  6. Hmm.. have to say I would have probably passed at the table but the point about the increased likelihood of a stiff heart is a good one.