Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.

Benjamin Franklin

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


Even at favorable vulnerability I’d require a better hand than South’s on which to overcall at the two level. However, South can catch up at his next turn and reach a sensible game.

Against four hearts East wins the first trick with the spade queen and returns a low trump; plan the play. It is clear that East has three black winners, and he must be expecting to win those tricks. Given that West is clearly short in spades, why isn’t East trying to find that setting trick in the form of a trump, by cashing his three black suit winners and then leading a third spade, hoping that West can ruff higher than the dummy? Such a plan would work if West had any trump honor.

Assuming that East is a competent player, there can be only one reason for his failure to try this plan: East knows that it cannot possibly work. East must hold the heart queen-jack himself, and he therefore knows that his partner probably cannot over-ruff the dummy.

If East had led three rounds of spades, his partner would have had to make it obvious to you that East had the heart queen-jack. Now South would be warned that two trump finesse were necessary to pick up the suit.

So East is leading trump to force South to make up his mind before all of the facts are in. However, South must realize why East is avoiding the obvious defense, and therefore South must play low from hand and run the lead to dummy’s 10.

If I had to guess, I would expect partner (who has made a take-out double then showed extras), to have one spade, and that while we might beat four spades on heart ruffs, we will come close to making a minor-suit game. So I think it is right (especially at teams or rubber) to bid four no-trump to get partner to pick a minor.


♠ 7 3
 Q 9 8 4 3
♣ J 10 8 5 4
South West North East
  1 ♠ Dbl. 4 ♠
Pass Pass Dbl. 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


Shantanu RastogiMay 12th, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

Very nice deal and excellent realtime inference.

I suppose if North chooses to play 3NT instead how should he handle Hearts after say Diamond 10 lead or even on Spade lead ? Is there any more inference for finesse than for Hearts from top ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffMay 12th, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Your discussion revolves around one of the major challenges of bridge. In NT all the inferences are different than they are, with a trump suit.

Depending on the opening lead (with diamonds by finding the Q98 with partner or even with an original club) the result will almost certainly be an EW plus and probably down at least two rather than just one, since while playing NT there would be no evidence to not play the AK of hearts.

The inferences which continually appear, especially when excellent players (even a notch or two below world class) are participating, often making our game no less than breathtaking.

At least to me, a person is blessed when his pastime provides problem solving, particularly so when those competitive experiences do not involve life or death or even make or break financial decisions, but only winning or losing
a mind game, between very competitive intelligent people (at least in a card sense way).

Is there any wonder our game is cherished, especially world wide, where its superior intellectual challenges is taught daily in its schools?

To me the ability to find a way to use our underrated minds every day is as healthy as life was ever intended to be.

If only our wonderful home country would realize it?

Thanks for your post, since playing a trump contract rather than NT, is as different as night and day, and, as you know, often raises its head.

Iain ClimieMay 12th, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Hi Bobby,

What if East reads the opening less as being from 763 (or 873, even though you dislike MUD) and switches to a trump from Qx? Can you tell here?



Iain ClimieMay 12th, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Obviously at T2 in the MUD case.

bobby wolffMay 12th, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Hi Iain,

Your second post, in its own telling way, provided the answer.

All expecting to win partnerships must work out a consistency with the specific card to be led one of the disciplines.

When the 7 (of spades) is led and being the opening bidder’s suit, that should signal no more than two spades. Why? Very simply, it is better to give partner a theoretical count once he has failed to raise (as is here) the opening bid suit.

If he had raised, immediately or later, then the seven would be right from three, since by raising, partner should expect three small rather than two.

And, of course that could easily become critical when defending, simply because the sooner two excellent defenders get the proper count they should then defend in almost a card by card perfect way, with, of course, some hands much harder than others to be sure.

And even more telling (at least to me) when that middle, up and down MUD (or vice versa) crap (please excuse the vulgarity) is begun one opponent might as well be wearing a mask, which will result in the player and the card led be beyond recognition.

Of course the players who prefer MUD obviously enjoy attempting to deceive declarer rather than being kind to partner, so I am not necessarily raining on their parade, but, if the truth be told, I am trying to present the facts and let the reader decide which tact to take, for better results.

Furthermore I fully realize that while playing MUD and on this hand if the opening leader then at trick two follows suit with the eight, not the three, then his third seat partner will now know the count, but by then it might, on some hands, be too late to matter.

BTW, thanks always for bringing up these problems, for without them and the learning experience involved, most of us will not benefit from then deciding for themselves which conventional treatment may work the better.

Iain ClimieMay 12th, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the thoughtful answer and I need to discuss this with a couple of regular partners. Time not to be stuck in the Mud so often, perhaps.