Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 12th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: West


8 2

K J 3

A Q 8 6 3 2

J 7


K Q 10 7 4


10 9 4

A Q 10 3


J 9 5 3

A 10 7

J 7 5

K 9 4


A 6

Q 9 8 6 4 2


8 6 5 2


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

Opening Lead: Spade king

“The best you get is an even break.”

— Franklin P. Adams

In competitive bidding, when one side has hearts and the other spades, it is often a good idea to keep on bidding to four spades over four hearts. Even if your contract fails, theirs may make. And sometimes both contracts can come home.

At one table, the contract was four hearts, and the spade king was led. Declarer had little choice but to win, overtake his diamond king with dummy’s ace, and cash the diamond queen, pitching a spade. He now ruffed a diamond and played a heart to dummy’s jack. East ducked this, but declarer accurately ran winning diamonds from the dummy. Whenever East ruffed in, declarer could overruff and play a second trump, ultimately reaching dummy via a club ruff.

It might appear that East could have done better by winning the heart ace and forcing the dummy with three rounds of clubs. However, declarer simply ruffs the third club in dummy and plays a winning diamond as before. East ruffs and declarer overruffs, ruffs a club high in the dummy and plays more winning diamonds.

In the other room, hearts were never mentioned when East initially treated his hand as a raise to three spades — something of an overbid — and West declared four spades. Here North led a club, which declarer won to play a trump. When South won the spade ace and played the diamond king, North missed his only chance to beat the contract. When he failed to overtake, four spades could no longer be beaten.


South holds:

8 2
K J 3
A Q 8 6 3 2
J 7


South West North East
ANSWER: Determining what to open hands with 10 or 11 high-card points with a moderate six-card suit is often a problem. I upgrade to a one-level opening bid if I can. Factors such as decent controls and guarded side-suit honors, as here, persuade me to open one diamond. If I had a queen in both hearts and clubs instead of my king and a jack, you might tempt me to open two diamonds — but only if vulnerable.


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


jim2August 26th, 2011 at 11:38 am

I think that was North’s second chance to beat four spades, since he could have elected to play South for a singleton when he chose his opening lead, perhaps due to failure to raise or sacrifice. That is: AD (Ooops!), QD, diamond ruff, with the trump ace to come in the fullness of time.

Bobby WolffAugust 26th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, North could have originally led his Ace of diamonds, but whether he should or not will, and probably could not ever have been, determined.


Perhaps West may have bid a competitive 3 spades over the pushy 3 hearts by his RHO. If so, it is likely that East would have then bid 4 spades over his RHO’s 4 heart bid.

My advice, for whatever it is worth and in these situations, since the hands are far ranging with good opponents also being aggressive, there is really no right nor wrong actions with an individual player left to judge for himself, (sometimes hard to do with an unbiased bent), just what his track record really is, compared to what he hopes it becomes.

I would not lead the Ace of diamonds with the reasoning that this choice is an all or probably nothing effort to immediately defeat the hand. Here it, of course, works, but I would feel worse if it allowed the contract to score, then I would feel good with my brilliance.

Under the old Aces scoring system, featuring 7 deadly sins, my guess is that the Ace of diamonds would be labeled one of the sins under Unilateral actions, even if, (are you ready for this?), it struck gold as it does here.

Possibly a more interesting subject would be, after a heart lead vs. 4 spades and declarer wins and leads a spade from dummy, South would hop and, of course, lead his king of diamonds. North should reason that surely since South ventured 3 hearts he doesn’t have only 5 hearts to the queen nothing, but rather 6 and if he instead had Kx in diamonds and I overtook the king to lead the queen I should then lead another diamond in the hopes for partner to trump it and then, after being overruffed by declarer, I have to hope that partner has the queen of clubs so that we have a defensive club trick at the death. Clearly North should overtake the king of diamonds, but in order to do so he must be both numerate and with it.

Think about it and if you see a flaw in that hypotheses I trust you will vocalize it.

As a sidebar and some might think I was being insidious, when I suggest that possibly South might reflect before he wins the Ace of Spades, conveying unauthorized information (UI) to partner, but I would not consider North unethical for overtaking the diamond even though the UI might have helped him make that decision.

What bridge appeals committees DO NOT do which they should is, in case this situation came to light, a precedent should be set in that UI, although present has to be thought of here as just part of the game (possibly like good and bad lies by a golfer during his 18 hole round) and not let it take over the whole game which forbidding North from playing good bridge is just too strong a penalty to impose on NS. Others may think differently and I respect that. What I DO NOT RESPECT is that committees almost always refuse to set precedents 1. for fear of being criticized and 2. (most important), allowing individual committees to vote for who they respect and against a possible enemy or someone they compete against.

There, I said it and I mean it, but hope that the vast majority of high-level players will change their minds about establishing precedents which should always be available for committees to study.

jim2August 26th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

On North overtaking a KD shift, it seems a no brainer, as long as North can be confident that West did not have six spades and South no more than two diamonds.

That is, even if South had Kx and the JD gets set up, South’s 3rd round ruff will kill the winner (though over-ruffed).