Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.

Malcolm Gladwell

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


Today’s deal saw South compete to three spades at his first turn by virtue of his nice shape. When his partner doubled four hearts to show extra values it was relatively clear because of his lack of defense to remove to four spades.

At the table the defenders led the club king, and continued with the queen, then jack, overtaken by East for a trump shift. What happened at the table was that declarer won in dummy and ran six rounds of trumps, on which West carefully discarded four hearts, baring his heart king, then finally a diamond, trying to simulate a man who was being forced to unguard diamonds. At this point declarer had to make a pitch from dummy with the ace-queen of hearts and ace-queen-third of diamonds left. He got it wrong when he discarded the heart queen, playing for the diamonds to run, and now had to go down.

Declarer would have done better with a slightly counter-intuitive strategy here. He should win the spade ace and does best first to cash the heart ace, then run all the trumps.

For this line to succeed, all declarer requires is for West to hold the heart king, and at least three diamonds to the king. By cashing the heart ace early, it saves you any guess as to which cards West has kept. If the heart king is not discarded, you will know to pitch the heart queen from dummy at trick 10, and hope that the diamonds will be running.

Jump to two no-trump showing your range as 18-19 high card points. You should not worry about the absence of a club stopper, since you have three cards in that suit. For the record, if you had a doubleton club and three hearts you might consider inventing a force of two spades, planning to raise hearts at the next turn, I suppose.


♠ A K 2
 A Q
 A Q 7 5 4
♣ 8 6 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 17th, 2017 at 11:31 am

I am confused by this sentence in the column text:

For this line to succeed, all declarer requires is for West to hold the heart king, and at least three diamonds to the king.

If declarer is adopting a line that requires West to hold both red kings, why not simply take two finesses?

BobliptonMarch 17th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

My first thought also, jim2, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to declarer twice.


jim2March 17th, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Ouch! Missed that. Good catch.

Bobby WolffMarch 17th, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Hi Jim2 & Bob,

Both of you guys are so naive.

What might and would probably work is for declarer to just claim, by stating I’ll take both red suit finesses throwing my losing diamond on the good heart.

If the opponents then inquire, just remind them that entries are for children, with the legal substance being in the discussion.

However, I suppose that the column suggestion is in order, though the prospects appear, at best to be 50-50. Oh, to have KJ10xxx opposite AQx instead.

BTW, for all those who think ethically (which I hope are many), my doing the above, should be heavily penalized, suggesting that I am only kidding.

Please tell me Jim2, that my claim would not work against you, I know now it would not, but before?

jim2March 17th, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Wonderful weather we’re having, eh-what?

TedMarch 17th, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Hi Bobby,

I hate to interrupt this conversation (actually far more fun than my question), but in BWTA if your Club and Spade holdings are reversed, would you still bid 2NT? And what’s the bid with a small doubleton Spade and 3 Hearts?

angelo romanoMarch 17th, 2017 at 4:48 pm

“…and hope that the diamonds will be running.” is your final sentence.
For diamonds NOT to run, East should have bid 3H with xxx-xxxx-J10x-Axx (!); anyway you’d know it before, seeing West discard the last club…

Bobby WolffMarch 17th, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Hi Ted,

Good questions and very worthy of interrupting our conversation.

If clubs and spades were reversed, yes I would still bid the descriptive 2NT, since the specific distribution and values IMO depicted the hand too close to not choose (although for practical lead reasons I do not feel as comfortable).

However with s. xx, h. AQx, d. AQxxx, c. AKx I would rebid 3 clubs (GF), based on my heart fit, prime values, but, of course, being slightly apprehensive of not finding a proper game fit, although practically I feel that fear not worth worrying about and for most purposes the heart fit (and possible diamond fit to follow), offset the smaller lie about being short a club.

Of course, Jim2 with his well-known TOCM TM might as well only raise to 2 hearts since his notorious continuous unlucky bridge adventures are now well known to all.

Never forget, although all optimists are primed to do so, that Dame Fortune handles the dealing, and extricating one’s partnership away from possible disasters are the mark of the great player.

In any event, the above can be a good excuse.

BobliptonMarch 17th, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Good advice, Bobby. If ever I’m playing against Jim2, I’ll bear it in mind, and answer any accusation of cheating by quoting you.


Bobby WolffMarch 17th, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Hi again, Ted,

Of course the default opening bid with most of the above hands including s. Axx, h. AKx, d. AKJxx, c. xx could be the more modern 2NT. If so, for most of us, when partner insisted on 6 clubs as the final contract he would hold, s. x, h. QJxx, d. xx, c.. KQJ10xx, but with Jim2, his partner would hold. s. KQ, h. Qx, d. Q10, C. AKxxxx and insist on playing in 7 clubs (instead of 7NT).