Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 30th, 2016

You know how often the turning down this street or that, the accepting or rejecting of an invitation, may deflect the whole current of our lives into some other channel. Are we mere leaves, fluttered hither and thither by the wind, or are we rather, with every conviction that we are free agents, carried steadily along to a definite and pre-determined end?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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


How should East defend against four spades, when partner leads the club king to trick one? At the table East played low at trick one, and West continued with the club ace.

Now, not wishing to open up either red suit, West switched to a trump. Declarer still doesn’t seem to have a 10th trick, since diamonds do not break and the heart ace is offside.

However, many-time world senior champion John Holland won the spade ace at trick three, and without testing the diamonds he ran all the trump, discarding hearts from dummy.

He reduced to a five-card ending where dummy had the bare heart king and four diamonds, while he had two hearts and three diamonds in hand. What was East to discard on the last trump? A diamond would give declarer four tricks in that suit, while if East reduced to the bare heart ace it would allow declarer to establish the heart nine for his 10th trick.

West certainly had an awkward problem at trick three. His best chance to beat four spades is to find East with two tricks in a red suit, or perhaps one red ace and a trump trick (in which case nothing matters). I would have switched, though probably to switch to a diamond than a heart.

However as East, since you know West is surely going to continue with a top club at trick two, whatever you play, maybe if you play the queen first, partner will continue with the ace, and will read your carding as suit-preference?

Your partner has suggested a non-minimum with six diamonds and three hearts. I’d guess that your best game, by some margin, rates to be four hearts. Assuming trumps break 3-3 or 4-2, you may take the same tricks in both contracts. The likelihood of three fast black-suit losers is high enough to gamble hearts will be the only makeable game.


♠ J 10 4
 A Q J 8
 10 9 7 2
♣ Q 7
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 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 13th, 2016 at 9:40 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, is it necessary to bid game as partner’s 2D bid is limited? I’d stretch Vul at teams but is there a case for caution at pairs where the oppo might just be cashing 2 black AKs. NV at teams would be tricky.



bobbywolffAugust 13th, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hi Iain,

There is no need for me to add anything to what you have already said.

Game, in an obvious 4-3 fit is indeed precarious, but somehow experience will show that it is unlikely that you will be off the first 4 tricks with a pair of AKs from your opponents.

However, since it is well nigh impossible to predict partner’s exact hand, my vote would likely be the same as yours, by choosing to pass.

If not, then, yes 4 hearts, because of the heart strength figures to be the best chance for game. Again a safe course may be a return to 4 diamonds, but then it would seem futile to risk the 4 level without even the carrot of making a difficult game as the reward for success.

No answers here, only the spirit of life’s adventure, which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described so eloquently.