Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 24th, 2016

I have only one eye, I have a right to be blind sometimes.

Horatio Nelson

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



South can describe a balanced 22-24 HCP by opening two clubs then rebidding two no-trump. Some Norths will now use Stayman, preferring to play a fivethree heart fit in no-trump with so much of their hand outside the long suit. But the majority will transfer into hearts and offer the choice of games.

(Incidentally, if North does transfer, there is a lot to be said for selecting hearts not no-trump with that South hand — you can see the potential blockage in the heart suit can’t you?. However no-one would crime you for passing three no-trump.)

West will lead the spade 10, and if both North and East cover, declarer will win and unblock the two top hearts, then cross to the diamond queen to dislodge the heart queen, eventually using the spade honor as a re-entry to dummy. In coming to 10 tricks he will not realize that two serious errors have cancelled one another out.

Declarer should note that the entries to dummy are few and far between, so must duck in dummy at trick one to preserve the queen-jack of spades as a sure entry to dummy. If you cover the spade and East meanly ducks, how can you reach dummy twice — once to set up, and once to cash the hearts? You can’t.

This play would be far easier to find if you had the spade king instead of the ace in hand; but the desire to build a second spade winner might blind some people (not you, of course) to the entry problem.

Your partner never bid, though he must have around a seven-count. He surely does not fit spades, so I would be reluctant to lead that suit. A low diamond is not such a palatable option but beggars cannot be choosers. I would lead the two, not the four – the latter is potentially even more confusing than a true count card.


♠ K J 5 4 3
 A 4
 10 4 2
♣ Q 7 5
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
1 ♠ Dbl. Pass 2 NT
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


A V Ramana RaoNovember 7th, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff
It would be interesting when south ducks the lead but when west continues hearts, east divines what south is up to and ducks. Suddenly the block in heart suit cannot be resolved profitably and unless declarer handles clubs properly and goes after hearts he may go down

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 1:13 pm

A V Ramana Rao –

South will only “duck in dummy.” That is, the AS will win the first trick.

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 1:16 pm

I would note that if this hand were at rubber bridge or IMPs, Our Host really needed to switch the locations of the 8 and 9 of clubs.

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Excuse me, 8 and 7 of clubs.

A V Ramana RaoNovember 7th, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Yes – As it happens, a blindspot

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Happens to me all the time! 🙁

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,

Blind spots also should get some love, since we all have them and thus so dealing, with discussion, will be more than just helpful in moving to higher ground with all of our overall bridge games.

And to Jim2 with his thoughts about matchpoints, he continues to be right on to, what I consider,, a dark element ever present in that game, which, to my way of thinking
is contradictory to a major caveat which adds to the glamor and accuracy of IMPs and rubber bridge, the making of the contract, rather than the pursuit of unbridled greed to secure one (which should be) much lesser goal, an extra overtrick, but only if certain cards are onside.

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Ah, I think you may have misunderstood my comment.

Say the JS holds the first trick and declarer realizes the mistake.

A small club is now led from dummy and declarer plays low:

1) If West over-takes, the QD is the entry for the club finesse, and declarer easily takes 2S, 2H, 3D, and 3C for 10 tricks.

2) If West plays low, East holds the trick but cannot lead a spade. Now declarer takes 2S, 2H, 3D, and has time to set-up and win 2C for 9 tricks.

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 4:46 pm

The key is that West cannot over-take East’s 8C without expending the KC. Hence, the deal layout should switch the 8 and 7 of clubs so West can over-take cheaply.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your explanation, which though subtle, is undeniably correct.

Also I think I needed to give West excellent club spots not just switch the 8 and 7 since West needed to be able to get in twice and declarer could then play the jack of clubs on the first one.

This exercise and your attention to detail (also to David) makes me often have to sing for my supper. So what chance does one have, if he is tone deaf?

jim2November 7th, 2016 at 9:43 pm

As long as clubs split, playing the JC may always win unless West has both missing honors. I missed that!


1) JS holds
2) 4C – 7C – JC – KC
3) 10S – QS – KS – South ducks
4) 6S – AS – 3S – 2S (no other return better)
5) AC
6) xC to the 10C

Declarer gets 2S, 2H, 3D, and 2C for 9 tricks.

Double dummy, declarer could cash all the red winners before playing AC and club to 10. Instead of a second club, declarer would get a 3rd heart, for 2S, 3H, 3D, 1C for 9 tricks that way.

Looks like declarer has to work hard to go down, even switching the club spots around!

Iain ClimieNovember 7th, 2016 at 10:04 pm

HI Bobby,

I remember a very similar hand even with the spade holdings the same although dummy had no other entries or high cards but HAQJ10x opposite Hxx. Declarer made the same mistake on the S10 lead, I ducked, he returned to hand with a minor suit winner and took the heart finesse, I ducked with HKxxx, he came back to hand again, repeated the finesse and dummy went the way of the dodo. In desperation he tried a small spade from SAx towards Qx and gratefully put up the SQ thinking pard had madly ducked. Everyone else went easily plus their way, but I hardly did much to praise.

Perhaps playing pairs gave him some excuse but he managed to forgive me for writing the hand up for a club website but not mentioning him by name; I did warn him I’d write it up but he asked for discreet anonymity. Obviously he didn’t go for Oscar Wilde’s famous “the one thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. How forgivable was his error at pairs , though? LHO could have held HKx or HKxx when might have decked a trick but in many other cases (even RHO holding HKx) the investment would be worth it.



jim2November 7th, 2016 at 10:32 pm

On LWTA, I have trouble with partner “must have around a seven-count.”
What did opener’s jump rebid of 2N show?

Iain ClimieNovember 7th, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Hi Jim2,

The oppo not bidding 3N presumably indicates they’ve only got 23-24 (or think that). Either LHO has a minimum or sub minimum double or RHO’s 2N isn’t the usual 18-19 but has slightly less (or maybe 3-1-4-5 or 2-2-3-6) and a long strong club suit, although I admit he might have tried 3N in that case. That’s my guess for what it’s worth; Bobby’s thoughts will be more illuminating.

Enjoyed your thoughts, as ever.



Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 11:11 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you certainly did the right thing at pairs, not so much the first round duck in hearts (unless, of course, declarer had 7 other tricks and was sporting only a singleton heart (although the bidding likely would have been telltale that he possessed at least a doubleton), but the duck of the king of spades is slightly tougher, although almost certainly demanded (only minus would be a possible misunderstanding by partner that, holding the ace himself he might be “fooled” into thinking declarer held the king. However that, too, is unlikely since why wouldn’t declarer let the first spade ride around to his king?

There is no legitimate answer as to what to do at pairs, since when overtricks take on such monstrous importance, how is it possible, especially against experienced competent players, to guess where the cards are placed?

Just be right or prepare to not score well since coin flipping will have its losing moments. However when discussing danger, it is just as dangerous, perhaps even more so, to not repeat the heart finesse, making recriminations for “guessing” wrong, totally out of place for either unlucky partner.

Regarding Oscar Wilde’s famous quotation, in this day and age, with so many transgressions apparently exposed, no deed, good nor bad, should be left unpunished, especially good ones.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Although it is not my style to necessarily predict how many hcps partner has, my guess on this hand, and against a steady partnership who should know what they are doing, that whatever the exact point count the declarer has (around 17-18) that the negative doubler has only 6 or 7 with of course, 4 hearts.

If partner does, in effect, have about 6 or 7 hcps, probably it will be better to hope partner has a double honor in diamonds without 3 spades or either the A nor Q (after all he did not make a courtesy raise). Therefore, and only in the long run, a diamond may offer the best chance to garner the most tricks possible, which is particularly important at match points, even if there is no way to defeat 2NT. Hope for declarer to hold the AQ of spades and prevent that second spade trick for declarer from ever developing.

Peter PengNovember 8th, 2016 at 1:26 am

Dear Bobby

I am profiting from your lessons!!! I saw the duck play right away!!!


Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2016 at 12:36 am

Hi Peter.

Since it is counter intuitive to duck the opening spade lead in dummy, one needs to think like an experienced player to even consider ducking.

You’ve passed over the opening ceremonies in learning to play and have now begun to consider the play of the entire hand, before even trick one fully played.

The above is what it takes to get there from wherever. Without which, even a very bright person will have a difficult time adjusting to our beautiful game, and believe me some extremely bright people, even close to genius, never make it pass that stage.

So kudos to you for setting your sails right and soon you’ll be traveling with a full wind at your back.