Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 15th, 2016

Life’s full of tricky snakes and ladders.

Steven Patrick Morrissey

South North
N-S ♠ K Q J 7 3
 A J 7
 A K 10 6
♣ 9
West East
♠ A 10 8 4 2
 10 6
 7 5 4 2
♣ Q 5
♠ 9 6 5
 K 8 2
 Q 8
♣ K 10 8 4 3
♠ —
 Q 9 5 4 3
 J 9 3
♣ A J 7 6 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 3 Pass
3 NT All pass    


Today’s deal sees a fine combined effort on defense against a three no-trump contract from the NEC tournament from Yokohama, one of the world’s strongest invitation teams events.

Fu Zhong as West started well by deceptively leading a fourth highest diamond from his four small cards. Declarer finessed, quite reasonably, and Jerry Li as East won and returned the textbook club 10 to pin dummy’s nine, covered by the jack and queen. Seeing the danger in the hearts, Fu played back a diamond to disrupt declarer’s communications.

Declarer took this, played the spade king, ducked, then the heart ace, and heart jack, ducked again, and a third heart. Li won his king, West pitching a diamond. At this point the defenders had taken a diamond, heart and club. Now Li played a spade to his partner’s ace for a third diamond play, the killing defense, since whichever hand South won this in, he was toast. Declarer could win in dummy and surrender a spade at the end, or win in hand and be left with a club loser.

The defense was basically forced from trick one onwards. Declarer could have succeeded at double dummy by rejecting the diamond finesse or by rising with the club ace at trick two. And because East had the club eight West could have continued playing on clubs earlier. However, his defense covered all the bases, since it would have prevailed against the actual lie of the cards, whether East had the club eight or not.

Partner has shown 18-19 but he may have only one spade stopper. I’m not sure if three clubs by me would be forcing, and I’d be unhappy about raising to three no-trump directly. It feels better to try three diamonds, bidding the opponents’ suit in which you have values. You can bid three spades over a three heart call from your partner, giving him one more chance to play no-trump.


♠ —
 Q 9 5 4 3
 J 9 3
♣ A J 7 6 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1
1 1 ♠ 2 NT 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 29th, 2016 at 1:34 pm

On the column hand, declarer has confidence in 9 tricks as long as he preserves his transportation.

Even winning the opening diamond finesse seems somewhat of a mirage as it is the heart suit in the weak hand where most of the tricks will come. Thus, perhaps declarer should eschew the opening finesse, play the KS (ducked), then start hearts from the top (catering to K or 10 singleton, and also to West K10xx). This seems to ensure 1S, 4H, 3D, and 1C. If Hs do not behave, the diamond finesse would still be there later.

jim2January 29th, 2016 at 1:37 pm

On BWTA, I confess that I might judge my hand to be much more useful in a suit contract and simply bid 5C.

bobby wolffJanuary 29th, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

To quote Shakespeare from Julius Caesar’s 2nd Citizen in response to Mark Antony’s stirring speech after Caesar’s death. “Methinks there is much reason in what he says”.

No doubt, the taking of the losing diamond finesse lost the tempo required to go about developing enough tricks for his contract.

Also 5 clubs, particularly with a spade void, appeared to be the right contract du jour, instead of 3NT. That special situation (a possible 3 club bid) caused me to wonder whether Wolff-sign off (the convention) might apply since the adverse bidding was not an usual occurrence.

In any event, although the North hand was never disclosed, I agree that the minor suit game looks like the right one, with even the possibility of a good club slam in the offing.

If only all suits wouldn’t be so badly placed, thanks to TOCM TM, when you began playing the hand.

Joe1January 30th, 2016 at 12:51 am

Bidding 3nt with a void? It looks like 4 h makes. My response (after opening pass) would have been 2 H.

Joe1January 30th, 2016 at 12:52 am

Oops make that 3 h.

jim2January 30th, 2016 at 2:03 am

Pard will have A10 of hearts …

bobby wolffJanuary 30th, 2016 at 2:21 am

Hi Joe1,

For what it is worth, unless a passed hand jump guarantees support for partner’s suit, I think 1 heart is quite enough since with a void in spades it would be hard to construct a hand where there will not be more bidding.

Then when it goes as it did, a club raise is in order to seriously inform partner of your club support and add to his information of your unbalanced distribution. Then only if your partner insists on 3NT (probably with 3 stoppers, AQJ, AKJ or even AK10 not to mention a 4th spade which then would make playing a suit contract more difficult since his support for hearts and/or his club length should then be downplayed.

Always the key to keep in mind is the partnership aspect involved with both partners equally seeking the best contract. Respect is only earned at the table between partners who listen to each other and not continually override the others bidding decisions.

bobby wolffJanuary 30th, 2016 at 2:24 am

Hi Jim2,

Another reason for not jumping in hearts a round earlier is to let partner know he requires real heart support rather than just A10. However obviously some compromises need to be sometimes submitted and perhaps preferring hearts with A10 may fit his hand.

jim2January 30th, 2016 at 3:47 am

North’s spade stopper will then be Axxx and South will lose trump control in a heart contract …