Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Dealer: North

Vul: Both


J 8

Q 9 7

K Q J 7 6

K 7 2


Q 7 3

10 8 6

9 4 2

9 8 5 3


K 10 9 4 2


A 8 5 3



A 6 5

A K J 4 3 2


10 6 4


South West North East
1 1
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass

Opening Lead: three

“All the habits and rules of his life that had seemed so firm, had turned out suddenly false and inapplicable.”

— Leo Tolstoy

The following deal falls under the heading of a technical play, but it also has the elements of an optical illusion. The right play sometimes can be disguised because we are all hedged around with a framework of do’s and dont’s so that we cannot see the forest for the trees.


Four hearts is a difficult contract both to declare and defend. When Piet Jansen reached it in the Cap Gemini Invitation Pairs in 1999, Justin Hackett led a spade in response to his partner’s overcall. Jansen put in dummy’s spade eight, and when Jason Hackett covered with the nine, Jansen ducked.


Had South won the trick, Jason would subsequently have put his partner in with the spade queen to lead a club through dummy’s king, so declarer had kept himself in the hunt nicely.


However, when the spade nine held the first trick, Jason found the essential switch to the club ace and another club, setting up his side’s fourth trick before declarer could establish the diamonds to discard his club losers.


This may seem simple, but less than half the field set the game here. The point is that the rule to break exerted such a sway that even some of the best defenders in the world could not bring themselves to do it. Yes, you are not supposed to lead a potentially well-placed ace and set up a king in dummy. But if you know that there are discards to come for declarer, you may have to bite the bullet.


South Holds:

J 8
Q 9 7
K Q J 7 6
K 7 2


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Some play a jump by an unpassed hand as strong, others weak, still others as artificial. By a passed hand it can’t be a pre-emptive one-suiter — with a good suit you’d have bid already; with a bad suit, one spade here would surely be enough. It does make sense to play this call as spades with diamond fit; if so, with a minimum hand and no real spade fit you should retreat from two spades to three diamonds.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonMarch 22nd, 2011 at 2:08 pm

HBJ : Yes, East should know that his partner has no points other than the spade queen, and therefore will never be in a position to lead a club through. East has to find a way himself of establishing 3 more tricks. Praying that declarer holds 3 small clubs is his best and only shot.

This again is another problem I might have got right at the table unlike many of your previous problem hands.

bobbywolffMarch 22nd, 2011 at 5:10 pm


Whether you know it or not you are making a special name for yourself.

In actuality I look upon you as a good bridge player, far better than average, who is very modest, perhaps not yet up to championship quality, but a bridge lover who strives to get the most out of his talent, while at the same time recognizing his current limitations.

Having said the above, what does all that malarkey mean? Simply put, your type of bridge player will be forever referred to as an HBJ, an enthusiastic type of player described above who loves the game and brings everything necessary to the table to represent what are the best qualities for an aspiring player to have to eventually achieve his goals.

That, together with your known superior sense of humor, will now forever be memorialized by your initials.

And to think that I knew you before you have just become famous.

Iain ClimieJanuary 2nd, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Funny how the defensive switch to the CA then CQ is a problem here but the analogous switch with the CA and CK reversed is absurdly easy.