Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 14th, 2015

Nothing is more imminent than the impossible… what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.

Victor Hugo

W North
None ♠ A 10 5
 6 3
 K Q J 8 5 2
♣ Q 4
West East
♠ J 9 6 4
 Q J 2
♣ J 8 6 5 3
♠ K 8 3 2
 K 9 8 7 4
♣ A K 9
♠ Q 7
 A 10 5
 A 9 6 4 3
♣ 10 7 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 1
2 Dbl. 3 Pass
3 NT All pass    


One simple law for declarer is that you should win a trick if you fear a shift. Still, there is always an exception. Walid El Ahmady and Tarek Sadek of Egypt are both highly resourceful declarers, and on this deal from the Cavendish pairs Sadek was able to bring home an impossible game by breaking the rules.

Three no-trump appears to be hopeless here for North-South except on a spade lead. Sadek received the lead of the heart queen.

If declarer wins the first heart for fear of a club shift, then runs six diamonds, East keeps his top clubs and two spades, and has an exit-card in the form of a low heart.

Better is to duck the first heart, win the next, and run diamonds. But in the five-card ending the defense can still just prevail so long as West keeps four clubs, and East discards all his hearts to keep two spades and three clubs.

Sadek went one step better; he ducked both the heart queen and the jack! Now he won the third heart, pitching a spade from dummy, and ran the diamonds. On the last diamond East was down to two spades and three clubs, and had no escape. If he kept two spades and the top clubs he would be thrown in with a club. If he bared his spade king, declarer would have the ninth trick in that suit, and if he discarded a top club, ace and another spade would endplay him to concede the ninth trick in clubs. Very nicely (and bravely) done.

The right response to a major-suit opener with 10 points and three trump is sometimes unclear. I prefer a simple constructive raise here rather than the limit raise. This hand has three positives, the aces, five-card suit and decent spots. But the doubleton queen is a negative; I’d settle for the simple raise to two hearts. Give me queen-third of spades and a doubleton club and I go the other way.


♠ Q 7
 A 10 5
 A 9 6 4 3
♣ 10 7 2
South West North East
    1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieAugust 28th, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

Either a club or a spade at T3 kills 3N but how can east get this message to west? A spade is best given that south could have Jxx in clubs, but is there an easy way of deflecting west from his or her pre-ordained defence?



Bill CubleyAugust 28th, 2015 at 1:30 pm


I agree with the late Grant Baze that it is the Guide to Total Trump. I might bid 1NT forcing in BWTA and support hearts later. But if the spade is a singleton, I make the limit raise because I might well be providing 2 ruffs while partner still has 5 trumps.

It is that I provide an extra 2 tricks rather than filling in a side suit for 1 less loser. Hope this makes sense. Feel free to show me the error of my ways.

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Hi Iain,

Our game causes us to accept less than a perfect science when analyzing the difference between bridge and chess.

Legal signalling is all that is available and almost every case being different, deft judgment, often based on declarer tempo, the overall bidding and previous knowledge of the chutzpah shown, often are the only weapons the defense will possess.

However, at least to me, bridge mirrors life much closer than does chess, since so many choices in life are based on chance rather than technical certainty. Guile, cunning, and simple psychology rather than certainty play a large part, such as today’s hand when the defense upon being presented with the first heart or two would surely wonder why declarer would concede such a defensive opportunity unless he was prepared for a switch.

The answer, of course, was that declarer needed to have a chance at the end to use his assets to advantage, otherwise the task would probably be hopeless.

Isn’t that last paragraph similar to various negotiations in life concerning buying and selling, other business discussions and even sometimes romantic relationships?

Sure very challenging finite games like chess, may go to the most talented pure thinkers, but shouldn’t other subjective attributes in life be necessary in order to win battles such as love and war.

Of course bridge differs from love and war because of its legal and ethical strictures, but when excellent judgment, rather than certainty, becomes the elephant in the room, I think many and probably most would think that adds too, rather than subtracts from.

Obviously, all the above confirms what you suggest, there is no legal bridge way for East to boldly signal West exactly what to do so both they and the declarer are on their own and to the victor of that superior mind battle go the spoils.

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Hi Bill,

No one can dispute your logical bridge lessons and most readers should feel well taught by them.

However, as to the result of following them we, as a group, will probably never know for sure what will work out best. Most everything in bridge, particularly the bidding, is subjective and requires a mental mesh with whomever is partner to succeed consistently.

It is this compatible partner we all search out and they often come in various shapes, sizes and bridge ability. Good luck to all in their quest and like riding on a merry-go-round, often we need to see different styles in order to choose our winner.

David WarheitAugust 29th, 2015 at 10:08 am

Iain: East doesn’t have to send a message to defeat 3NT, he can do it all by himself. All he has to do is play the HK at trick one! Admittedly, he must realize (or hope) that his partner has J fourth or better in C, but it seems reasonable to me for him to follow that line.

bobby wolffAugust 30th, 2015 at 12:19 am

Hi David,

Yes, you do not speak with forked tongue, but you are, at least on this hand quite an optimist, assuming you cover your partner’s queen of hearts lead with the king at trick one.

Declarer is known to have the ace of hearts and no doubt the ace of diamonds for his bold 3NT with neither a black suit ace or king. Your line would demand South not to have the measly jack of clubs or conceivably the queen of spades for his 3NT gamble.

However, you are right when East should understand that declarer has the ability to take the first 8 tricks whenever he wants, so that his action at trick one in the form of whether or not he plays the king or possibly the deuce instead, warning West of trouble laying ahead in the way of what the end game will look like if he woodenly continues hearts. Obviously if East had only the black suit aces and, of course the very likely King or (ace) of hearts he would signal otherwise with a positive attitude signal, but since he may have decided to play the deuce, East can figure out to switch to a club.

The reasoning necessary on this hand, particularly from a defensive view, is what the highest level of bridge is all about.

Thanks for leading into the subject.