Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.


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

*Forcing relay


Although it can often be right to play in three no-trump when you have a 5-3 major-suit fit, it helps to have strength or length in all the side-suits. On this deal from a team of eight contest two pairs went down in three no-trump after a top club lead. The other two pairs played in the right strain, spades, but the bidding subsided at the two-level.

However, what line of play would give the best chance of making four spades? It seems right to assume that trump will break 3-2. The total of winners is nine – so from where will the 10th trick materialize?

The suit to go after should be hearts. They might break 3-3, but one trick must always be lost. However, even if they don’t break so helpfully, the fourth heart can perhaps be ruffed on the table – so long as you time the play correctly.

West will surely lead the club queen against four spades. The best way forward, which caters for most eventualities, is to win, then play a low heart, ducking in hand. The opponents will doubtless cash their club trick, but their next play puts you in control. Win, play off the spade ace and king, then take the two top hearts and if necessary ruff your heart loser with dummy’s last trump. The defenders will make a trump trick, but that is all.

Note: if you cash either one or two top hearts early, then whether you play trumps or not, you will no longer be able to find a winning line, as the cards lie.

You have enough to make a try for slam. As three notrump is natural and implicitly a minimum for the auction thus far, you could make a quantitative raise to four no-trump, or bid four clubs, as a cuebid for hearts, showing three trumps, and planning to follow with Blackwood. You’d surely have raised clubs directly if you wanted to play that suit. I think I prefer the latter approach, despite your bad trump.


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


Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2016 at 11:41 am

Hi Bobby,

An extra chance in 3N is to take the third club, H to K and lead a small spade ducking the 6. West has to play the SQ or J to stop this but South doesn’t have enough re-entries. If the DK was swapped with the D4, though, then this could tried then come back to hand and then try S8, ducking unless covered. Sadly east can then knock out the last red suit re-entry before spades are unravelled.

At the table in 3N, I suspect I’m just hoping S are 3-2 with the club length not having 3. The extra chances are worth a look, though.



bobbywolffAugust 9th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Hi Iain,

You have all the qualities, not to mention your natural enthusiasm, to be a high-level teacher for would be bright beginners.

Of course, West will rise with one of his spade honors, since he will be on the alert to get on lead, once his clubs have been established vs. 3NT.

Today’s hand is a good illustration of why an 8 card major suit fit is mostly preferred to 3NT, although one less trick is demanded for success.

Often that extra trick disadvantage is offset by the protection which trump offers when there is even a sometimes good chance of having only one stop in the declarer’s shortest combined suit (clubs).

Naturally there are other factors, such as those worthy opponents always leading their best suit and/or sometimes trumps having to break as evenly as possible to make, where in NT, 9 tricks flow for the taking.

The above is just one of the reasons that the judgment which goes into high-level bridge is IMO a step above the logic required in other games, with usually the result determined by percentages rather than certainty, making it possible that, on any one hand, lady luck may turn right into wrong.

Always thanks to you for taking the time to discuss the “rest of the story”.