Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

…Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.

Joseph Heller

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


Today’s deal comes from a pair game at my local club game. I was the beneficiary of some inexact defense, though at the time it wasn’t entirely obvious to me who had dropped the ball. In retrospect, though, I think the answer is clear; what about you?

At my table I was South in three no-trump, and West elected to lead a low spade — a small heart might have worked better, I admit. East took the spade two with the ace and continued with the spade jack. I did my best to cover this in normal tempo, and West could not see anything better to do than win and play back a spade.

I did my best to cash my nine tricks without indicating my relief at this turn of events. But of course the defenders had failed to cash their diamond winners – two spades and three diamond tricks making five. Who do you think was at fault?

When the spade two was led, East should have assumed that his partner had one of the missing high spades, so while taking one top diamond might start to establish the suit for declarer, it could hardly be fatal.

Therefore East should cash the diamond king at trick two before returning the spade jack. When West takes declarer’s spade queen with the ace he should know to cash the diamond queen. A third diamond to East’s ace sees the defenders achieve their target without having to rely on one or other of them possessing the spade 10.

Your hand seems just a little too good to pass here, and if you are going to keep the auction open, what call is best and most flexible? I think doubling here for takeout is the best way to get all suits into play. After all, how do you protect against partner having a doubleton club? We’ve all done worse – I think.


♠ 8 7 3
 K 10
 J 7 5
♣ K J 8 6 3
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
2 ♣ Pass Pass 2

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


BryanNovember 22nd, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Agree that cashing a Diamond before returning Spade is best.
On the actual spade return, would not the 4 spade be a better lead? Should have a count on spades that declarer has 2 spades and most likely KQ split. Making the 10 a key card. if pard has the 10, either spade works out. If declarer has Q 10, then put South on a guess.

Bobby WolffNovember 22nd, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Hi Bryan,

Happy to hear about your agreement with the disclosure to partner (king of diamonds as a temporary switch) in order, especially with this specific diamond and spade layout. By doing so, represents a certain maturation of looking out for partner’s vital interest (along with yours) of attempting to avoid devastating defensive lurking, glitches.

As a side note, the partner of the opening leader should immediately be aware (as soon as that weak dummy hit the table), masquerading as a 3NT response (although many, including I, may make the same bid).

However, to not lead the jack back, after, of course cashing the King of diamonds, would only possibly lead to more complications by puzzling partner. This does not mean that, in theory it might be superior, but why complicate a normal situation since there is no way for East to know the whole layout of the hand and to go through all possibilities and the effect, may take into next week.