Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 27th, 2016

‘If one approaches a problem with order and method, there should be no difficulty in solving it — none whatever,’ said Poirot severely. ‘Oh, I see,’ said Jane, who didn’t.

Agatha Christie

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


In today’s contract, declarer had bid the hand intelligently to the right contract, but when dummy came down he thought the route to nine tricks was a safe one. Unfortunately for him, he tackled his suits in the wrong order, and so he failed in his mission.

Against three no-trump West led the spade three and South appreciated that nine tricks were easily available – in addition to the four top tricks in the majors, four extra tricks could very likely be developed in diamonds and one further trick in clubs.

So on winning the opening lead with dummy’s spade ace, declarer called for a diamond. East won, and returned a spade. The jack lost, and South was forced to win the spade continuation. When the club finesse also lost, the game was sunk.

If declarer had appreciated that spades could not be continued to advantage from the West hand, he would have taken the club finesse at trick two. It loses, but no return by West is damaging. Say a heart comes back. Best is to play low from dummy, win the jack with the ace, then set about diamonds. Now, so long as diamond break no worse than 3-1, (when the defenders could duck the diamond ace three times) nine tricks are there.

Once again, it would have paid to make a detailed plan when dummy went down. As declarer you have every right to take your time to do this – even to the extent of discouraging dummy from playing the spade ace until you are ready.

The fact that your partner has not raised diamonds suggests a lead in that suit might be dangerous. While nothing is in the slightest degree attractive, your partner surely has some club length. So without any confidence I’ll lead a low club, and try to find a way not to blow more than one trick for our side.


♠ Q 9 4 3
 J 4
 Q 10 7 2
♣ Q 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT
2 Pass Pass 2
All 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


slarJuly 11th, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Holding -/xxx/AQJx/AKQJxx the bidding went …-1C-1NT(2S);???
I bid 3D and ended up playing it there – partner had Qxx/Qxx/KT9x/xxx. This wasn’t the worst contract in the world since many pairs ended up in clubs where only 10 tricks were available but 5D was cold (I ended up making 6 after a friendly spade lead allowed me to ruff twice in hand). After the hand was over we couldn’t decide whether a reverse in competition was forcing or not. Did I need to bid 4D there?

bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Hi Slar,

Considering this hand from a practical standpoint, it surely seems to me that I would rebid 3 clubs, rather than 3 diamonds (in spite of your result) just because, in competitive bidding, particularly when your side has made a definite limit bid, 1NT, and although imaginative, to now bid 3 diamonds runs a great risk of winding up in the wrong trump suit.

It is to me sheer folly, although well within the possibility, of what happened, happening. And why didn’t the opponents keep bidding since likely they could make 4 spades losing only 2 diamonds and 1 club (of course,depending on their distributions)?

The thought of you jumping to 4 diamonds when clubs appear to be the better trump suit, is, not to me, even to be considered, with bidding that suit at all not recommended (at least by me).

Furthermore, while competing against very good players and your side arriving at 5 of a minor (particularly diamonds) do not be surprised, matter of fact expect, a heart lead not a spade, catering to a likely spade void, considering the around the table bidding which will occur.

The difference in logic between three types of bridge thinking (novice, intermediate,and high level) are often with large gaps between valuations. I am sure you have experienced something similar in your rising bridge judgment on the up elevator.

Continue on that path, but while doing so, please understand how the game itself, especially when played by players with natural talent for bridge logic, become competitive with each other.

Thanks for presenting your recent hand. Perhaps you didn’t realize what that discussion might provoke?

slarJuly 11th, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Interesting. So we backed into a good result. I’ll remember this the next time we go down in a 75% slam. It all works out more or less. For what it’s worth, was the 3D bid actually supposed to be forcing, or not after the competition and limited bid by responder?

As it turns out hearts are frozen – whoever broke the suit gave away the contract because I had Txx opposite Qxx. I doubt the opponents would have had the foresight to make the heart lead which lets 5C make.

I can’t explain the bidding by the opponents. While it was a 0-2000 sectional (with separate NLM game), the competition was poor throughout. I’ve already decided to avoid limited events at clubs and sectionals after the NABC and yesterday was another nail in that coffin.

bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Hi Slar,

Always remember that bridge is not a perfect science, not even very close, so that 3 diamonds, is not exactly forcing, but because of obviously holding more clubs than diamonds, partner will know that you have a strong distributional hand and thus judge accordingly.

It well could be 5-6 in the two minors and the opening bidder just being practical.

slarJuly 11th, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Thanks. Tightening up our agreements in these little wrinkles can only help our partnership.

TedJuly 11th, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

A day for problem hands. From a team game this weekend, both Vul, RHO dealt.

1S P 1NT P
2C 2H 2NT all pass.

My hand: AKxx A108xx x Q9x

I was concerned LHO would pass 2C and though I might pre-balance, but it would have been a disaster in 2H. As it was, kudos to my partner who, by trick 3, recognized I must have spade values and made the killing shift.

How should I have bid this?


bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Hi Ted,

Despite the warning I would have bid 2 hearts the first time.

Yes, particularly with long spades, getting into this bidding could be and was indeed dangerous, but what if partner has long hearts and short in the black suits, a very live possibility and by the time it got back to you the opponents were at the three level in any of the suits except, of course, hearts.

I prefer to base my overcall on being much too dangerous not to. It never hurts to remind would be winning players, that essentially bridge itself is a bidder’s game with experience screaming, when it is close, “just bid something”. Advantages include: 1. make something worthwhile, 2. push the opponents higher in a part score battle, 3. usually suggest the right lead (how about if RHO had rebid 2NT and whether or not LHO accepted, partner tables a low diamond?) 4. force the other side into using good judgment by becoming tough opponents for them. And the disadvantages: 1. going set and sometimes more than bargained for (even then, like your hand from last weekend, often even when wrong, the opponents are not well placed to take advantage of it). 2. displeasing partner who has been trained to play you for more offensive values.

If all 6 of the above caveats are about equal, then it is 2 to 1 in favor of bidding.

bryanJuly 11th, 2016 at 7:54 pm

If south “woke up” after winning the K Spades, is there something that can be done? While goose is already cooked for not thinking ahead, is there anything that could be done to give a better chance than just a club finesse?
Could running the 5 diamonds before choosing to finesse in clubs help? If east discards the 4th spade on the diamond run, could then setup a heart trick if reads the position correctly? If the club finesse works, could still take it if no better choice shows up on the discards.

bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Hi Bryan,

Yes, if bridge was played with transparent cards, the winning line would be found by all declarers who understood how to play.

Of course if declarer wins the king of spades runs the diamonds and then returns with the ace of hearts to end play West with the jack of spades to his queen in order to win the contract trick with both clubs.

However, what if the queen of spade was in East’s hand or what if the king of clubs was with East, and still what probably would happen on this specific hand West would discard down to the singleton king of clubs so that he would not be endplayed.

Sure, the declarer can guess that also by merely disdaining the club finesse and lead to the ace, making that contract.

However, even to talk about those kinds of guesses are (or should be) off limits to even discuss since the probabilities of going right ended when declarer misplayed the hand by not just taking the club finesse, losing to the non-danger hand and insuring the contract.

I hope you can agree with me, that the main focus should always be, taking the foolproof line, if one is there but if not, suffering the consequences when one of the lesser lines (establishing the diamonds too early) are selected.

In weaker games all sorts of alternatives may be available in order to compensate for a missed earlier opportunity. But in a “real” game of bridge those secondary opportunities, like errors in baseball, usually puts paid to results.

No runs, no hits, 1 error, contract down and pride is left on base.

TedJuly 11th, 2016 at 10:48 pm

Thank you, Bobby.

Turns out we had an 8 card Spade fit and opponents had 7 Hearts. Still learning how bad a suit I should still overcall with at the 2 level (given the rest of the hand), but experiences like this can help.

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