Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating and mediocrity are easy. Stay away from easy.

Scott Alexander

North North
Neither ♠ 9 5
 K 2
 A K 6 5 3
♣ K 9 5 2
West East
♠ K Q J 8 3
 Q 9 4
 Q 10 7
♣ 8 6
♠ 6 4 2
 J 10 6 3
 J 9
♣ Q J 10 7
♠ A 10 7
 A 8 7 5
 8 4 2
♣ A 4 3
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ 2♣ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


How will you give yourself the best chance in your no-trump game when West leads the spade king? You hold up the spade ace until the third round, leaving East with no spade to play.

So far, so good. Now four diamond tricks will give you the contract, but you need to duck a diamond trick into East, the safe hand. Any ideas as to how to proceed?

If you simply play ace, king and another diamond, you will succeed only when East holds three of the five outstanding diamonds. A better idea is to lead twice toward the dummy, planning to duck if the lowest missing diamond (the seven) appears from West. So at trick two you lead a low diamond from your hand. If West plays the seven, you will duck in the dummy, knowing that East, the nondanger hand, will have to overtake. It makes no difference what East returns. When diamonds break 3-2, you will score four tricks in the suit and claim the contract.

Suppose instead that West inserts the diamond 10 on the first round. You will win with dummy’s ace and return to your hand with a club (or a heart) to lead another diamond. This time, West has to play the seven, or you will make all five diamond tricks. You duck in the dummy, and again East has to overtake with his remaining card. Once more, you have nine tricks.

This is a close call between two actions. (Pass is not on the agenda – you could easily be selling out when your side could make game or collect a sizeable penalty.) You could double – the safest way into the auction, which preserves the chance of a penalty – or bid one no-trump. The latter describes your values nicely, since the bid shows 11-14 in balancing seat. It would be my choice.


♠ A 10 7
 A 8 7 5
 8 4 2
♣ A 4 3
South West North East
1♣ Pass Pass

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuApril 25th, 2013 at 6:34 am

Hi Bobby, On the last hand,presuppose one was in six hearts, with J10xx opposite K8xxx,does declarer play JH from Dummy and see East’s reaction before deciding to play the King(playing for 22break with Ace in East),and the option of letting the Jack run(play East for Q or AQx or West for A?The 9 will be quite visible in play,except for 4-1.Pure guess 50-50 if no bidding guide…Regards Patrick.

Iain ClimieApril 25th, 2013 at 8:16 am

Hi Bobby,

on the BWTA hand, what would you do with a slightly different hand (say) SAxx HAxx DAxx C108xx. Dbl with no 4 cd major or 1N with no stop? Should 1N in the protective position always have a stop or are there “needs must” cases – I think the hand above would be one.



Patrick CheuApril 25th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Hi Bobby and Iain, did some partnerships use to bid 1NT with xxx in opener’s suit in the Protective position?! As it might enable the other partner to gauge the hand better as regards opener’s suit,if opener’s suit was a major,partner of the 1NT,can still ask again by bidding opener’s suit if needs be,to confirm a good stop required,for game purposes.Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffApril 25th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Hi Patrick,

Sorry for my late answer, but my attention has been directed elsewhere.

The heart situation is far from 50-50, much below that, because of not only missing 4 of them but also including the 9. Perhaps the highest percentage play in the absence of the opponent’s bidding or a telltale lead, would be low to the king which works with Ax onside or a singleton Q in either.

Keep in mind that if East has AQ9 he is guaranteed two tricks. A singleton Q figures to occur in one defensive hand or the other a total of 1/4 of 50% X 2 or 25% and the Ax about 50% of 40 (20%) making the combined chance around 45%. To expand how to figure percentages it may be interesting that a singleton Q (in either hand) is more likely than is Ax onside, although I am not the final say on the tricky subject of figuring bridge percentages.

Perhaps you think you have thought that there are 5 out instead of 4 which could be very confusing to you in attempting to only lose 1 trick (reference to 4-1)

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Hi Iain,

I would either bid 1NT, but pass could be the winning action since having 4 clubs and partner not chirping with any overcall might suggest that the opponents are in the wrong contract so let sleeping dogs lie.

My choice has absolutely nothing to do with have or not having a club stop. At least to me, that is totally immaterial, but rather the likelihood of the opponents being in the wrong contract is the sole basis for my decision.

It is so important to me that partner feels the same way that I do about the necessity to overcall or bid something if he has the slightest reason to do so, since his partner, (in this case me) will totally rely on him to protect his side of the table and I will then be able to judge my side.

I hope this, at least, makes some sense to you. Many times the right philosophy makes passing a much too dangerous choice as opposed to the opposite of that, bidding, where many players might feel the opposite way. Yes, bridge is scientific in these situations and the phrase of the dog which didn’t bark takes on great significance.

Finally with #1 Kx, KQ10x, Kxxxx xx, or #2 Kx, Q109xx, Kxxxx, x, it is necessary after RHO opens 1 club to bid one of two choices, bid 1 heart (my choice on both) or 1 diamond with hand #1 (another choice) but not to pass.

bobbywolffApril 25th, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Hi again Patrick,

I would not hesitate to bid 1NT with say Qxx, Kxx, AKxxx, Qx over 1 club. A stopper in a minor suit is only a small plus in deciding whether to introduce NT at this level. Chances are that partner has some length in clubs once East passes since he didn’t chirp. An example: Axx, Q10x, Qxx, J9xx which opposite my 1NT balance figures to make about 8 1/4 tricks. If partner would raise to 2NT I would happily accept.

I hope my answers have at least help clear up a bidding area to which there is not 100% agreement among the best players, because of the wide ranges necessary to proceed.

Patrick CheuApril 26th, 2013 at 6:37 am

Hi Bobby, thanks again for correcting my typing, I did mean 4-0,your analysis and answers have been of great help and much appreciated-Best regards-Patrick.