Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Government and co-operation are in all things the laws of life; anarchy and competition the laws of death.

John Ruskin

W North
Both ♠ A 3 2
 A K J 9 7
 8 4
♣ K 7 6
West East
♠ —
 10 8 6
 K J 3
♣ A Q J 10 8 5 4
♠ J 8 7 6 4
 4 2
 10 9 5
♣ 9 3 2
♠ K Q 10 9 5
 Q 5 3
 A Q 7 6 2
♣ —
South West North East
  1 ♣ 1 Pass
1 ♠ 2 ♣ 3 ♠ Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
6 ♠ All pass    


When this deal came up North thought he was too good for a simple rebid of two spades. So he jumped to three spades, and South retaliated by leaping to slam, after a couple of cuebids. He received the apparently friendly lead of the club ace, East playing the club two to indicate an odd number.

At the table, South ruffed, led a trump to dummy and found the bad news. He took a losing diamond finesse, and won the club king, pitching a heart, to play the diamond ace and ruff a diamond. That passed off peacefully enough, but when he tried to cash hearts. East ruffed the third, and declarer was doomed.

If South places seven clubs on his left from the play to the first trick, he might decide to protect against the 5-0 spade break, by the somewhat unnatural play of discarding a diamond from his hand at trick one, in an attempt to retain control.

The defense does best to shift to a heart, and South wins the queen and crosses to the spade ace. When West discards, declarer leads a spade to the 10, crosses to a heart, and leads a spade to the nine. After drawing trump, he has 12 tricks.

The two keys to the deal are to count the 12 tricks in the form of one diamond, one club and five tricks in each major – so there is no need to ruff at trick one. The second key play is to lead a trump to the ace (not a high trump from hand) at trick two, to preserve the finesses in trumps against East.

You do not have to drive to three no-trump single-handedly; take a slower route by doubling two clubs, a call that is primarily for take-out. Over partner’s response you can bid three no-trump if necessary. As usual, though, it is better to follow a flexible route and to ask partner what he has rather than telling him.


♠ A 3 2
 A K J 9 7
 8 4
♣ K 7 6
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 2 ♣ Pass 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


A V Ramana RaoJune 24th, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps it does not matter which red suit south discards at trick one if he can count twelve and refrains from ruffing Club A at trick one. Suppose he discards a heart. When west continues clubs dummy winning and east follows with south discarding a diamond this time south knows precisely that west has seven clubs after he leads spade A from dummy and west shows out because holding five clubs, the bidding could have been different ( east indicated odd number of clubs at trick one) . Now dummy leads a spade with south finessing and leading Q of heart to A in dummy and repeating the spade finesse and collecting trumps. If west had a 0-4-2-7 pattern initially with diamond K, he should discard all his clubs on the trumps and south confidently can finesse nine of hearts. The possibility of east holding four hearts virtually does not exist as then west would have 0-1-5-7 pattern initially and could have bid diamonds at the second turn. And of course, if hearts are 3-2 in either EW hands, as it happens in the actual hand , overtaking Q with K will never lose as south scores five heart tricks always . Pardon me for a rather long analysis. What I mean actually is that south can recover from discarding a heart at the first trick

Bobby WolffJune 24th, 2017 at 1:50 pm


Your right-on analysis suggests to me that you would likely and brilliantly discard on the opening Ace of club lead and not trump it as I think an overwhelming number of declarers would somewhat carelessly do (at least it turned out that way).

However, to then discard a heart instead of a diamond might reveal that you love to make your task as challenging as possible, rather than to sit back, and smell the roses when you triumphantly lead the ace of spades from dummy and proceed to make this very difficult slam caused by the horrific spade division.

Kudos to you for accepting the challenge, but sometimes bridge itself is testing enough without help from the solver who is astute enough to recognize the advantage of discarding at trick one, rather than falling for the irresistible temptation to trump that ace of clubs.

However, since AVRR is your name and solving puzzles is your game, I will be delighted to applaud your possible, perhaps thought by some, somewhat masochistic approach.

Thanks for your “rest of the story” addition and all the thought which went with it. However if West would have originally been dealt: s. J
h. 108642, d. KJ, c. AQJ109 both East and West would have been granted a reprieve for after East’s declined Lightner double but then being granted a second chance West switching to a heart, down would go the declarer who saw fit to duck the opening lead of the ace of clubs.

Ain’t we got fun?

A V Ramana RaoJune 24th, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Sure Mr. Wolff
Solving Bridge problems provides both fun and relaxation for me
Thanks & regards

Peter PengJune 24th, 2017 at 2:44 pm

hi Mr. Wolff

I saw a bidding sequence on line today that was right on but there were no alerts – I had not seen this before.

For the sake of simplicity I will show only the two hands that bid (rearranged).





S opened 1NT, N bid 2NT
S rebid 3C, N responded 3D
S closed the auction in 4S

I did not see any alerts. Can you explain what conventions were these?

Was there any operator error in placing the bids?

thanks for your erffort

Bobby WolffJune 24th, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Hi Peter,

Some high-level players, playing either 15-17, or perhaps a 4 point spread 15-18 (with one point given for a 5 card suit), or the old time 16-18 have done away with the invitational 2NT allowing a raise to 2NT, (in this case), to be Puppet Stayman.

Then, 3 clubs may ask for specific distribution with 3 diamonds showing 3-2 in the majors allowing South to jump to 4 spades.

Yes, those bids, including 2NT are all alerts, but perhaps their opponents did not want to be alerted (with the hope for a misunderstanding from their convention prone opposition). If so, their idea seems reasonable since so many of those possible 5-3 fits are dependent on what specific distribution is opposite partner’s doubleton.

On this hand, especially playing matchpoints, declarer will usually make eleven tricks in spades but only nine tricks in NT (both with heart leads).

However my assumption of what their bids mean is wholly made up by me, but obviously 2NT was intended to be forcing and 3 clubs was certainly either telling or asking, either of which could have led to the right matchpoint contract.

Yes, that bidding sequence could also have been given through error.

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