Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

And speech impelled us To…urge the mind to aftersight and foresight.

T. S. Eliot

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


Today’s deal comes from Frank Stewart’s latest book, Keys to Winning Bridge. The proceeds of Frank’s book will be going towards local charities and I can wholeheartedly recommend it both for that reason, and also for its bridge content. Stewart’s deal features a relatively simple point of declarer play; see what you think. Against four hearts West leads the diamond jack. You might as well put up the queen – you never know. Plan the play when the queen is covered by the king.

The contract seems to be reasonably safe unless the spade ace is over the king. But if West has the spade ace (which he does), South needs to find West with the club king. If that should be the case, declarer can come to 10 tricks by way of four club tricks, five trumps and the diamond ace.

So far so good; however while the club finesse is necessary, you need to ensure that you cover all the bases. South may well need three entries to his hand for club finesses, hence he should not draw trump.

Best play is to lead a club to the 10 at trick two, and now you should take only the trump king and ace. Then, rather than draw the last trump, South repeats the finesse in clubs, comes back to the heart queen and takes a third finesse in clubs. He discards a spade loser on the master club, and will be able to play on spades for the overtrick.

Details of the book can be found at:

While I could imagine opening this hand with a preempt in third seat non-vulnerable, I would never act in first seat (and feel even more strongly about a second in hand preempt). The combination of a weak six-carder and a strong four-card major makes bidding an antipercentage action. Move the spade queen into the diamonds, and now you can discount the weak four-card major and act, if you want.


♠ Q J 9 7
 K 9 8 5 3 2
♣ 4 2
South West North East

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


David Warheit1October 24th, 2017 at 9:18 am

Minor point: S should pitch his losing D on the 4th club, then ruff a D and exit with a small S. When an opponent wins, he must return a S. S will thus make an overtrick if a) W wins the first S, b) E has SA, c) W has SA doubleton, or d) S are 6-1.

BobbyOctober 24th, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Hi David,

Yes, and although you call your advice minor, in reality and especially at matchpoints, it becomes close to critical to play and defend every trick as if it will determine the final result. The above always applies, no matter the stage of expertise, pair or team, of your opponents since, in addition
to that right technique, it continually forces great pressure, when those worthy opponents play against you.

Sadly (at least for us), just yesterday our team, while playing IMPs and in the final of the first KO, had a flatfooted tie at the end of our 24 board match, and then lost by 4 IMPs in the overtime. When playing, there are numerous decisions for all eight players (2 pairs on each side) many of which only concern themselves with overtricks.

Yes, sometimes it is only luck, others special (deceptive) skill, but whichever it is, when a very close ending occurs, it is always very disturbing to come up being on the short end.

When on the long side, it is extremely invigorating to know that every successful decision you and your team made, was necessary for success.

Thanks again David, for reminding all tournament bridge players of ways
to improve their results. And by following his advice, for even just social players, should also provide, more worthwhile satisfaction.

PeteOctober 24th, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Hi Bobby,
Could you and/or one of your regulars please answer this for me. Second seat after a pass, both vulnerable, playing in a club match-point game. S-5, H-J, D-K,Q,8,7, C-A,10,9,8,7,5,2. Do you bid 1C, 3C, 4C, or Pass? Thank you very much.

David WarheitOctober 25th, 2017 at 3:56 am

Pete: my rule of thumb is: if your losers count up to 6 or fewer, you almost certainly need to say something, 5 or fewer (and this one is 5) you absolutely need to say something. So, I would open 4C with this hand, but 3C is OK.

I recently held S void H KJxxx D x C AJ10xxxx and opened 1C, found my partner with KQxxx of C, believe it or not, a singleton H, Qxxx of S and something annoying to the opponents in D. My right-hand opponent had 6 spades to the AJ and their only club, so partner was guaranteed a S trick. Right hand opponent also had AQ10 tight of H, so I think the best the opponents could make was 3S while 5C, on a total of 19 HCP walked home. The moral of the story is that when you have a very distributional hand, counting losers is vastly more important than counting HCP.

PeteOctober 25th, 2017 at 5:53 am

Thank you for the comment. I like the 4C bid.

BobbyOctober 25th, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Hi Pete & David,

While I possess no quarrel with either Pete’s specific question nor, of course David’s well-considered answer, when highly distributional hands appear and before the bidding materializes, it is difficult to impossible to
prematurely “guess” losers.

Regarding Pete’s problem hand to open, it all depends on the mesh that his side has, especially his partner’s minor suit holdings. Obviously if partner has either, at least a partial club fit, and/or a significant diamond fit (Jxxxx or better) there will be many offensive tricks available (both to his side, but also to the opponents in their best combined major suit. Add to that conundrum, partner holding at least one major suit ace instead of, for example either king or worse, KQ, and the complexion radically changes from good offense to relatively poor offense, but significantly strong defense.

The above, either way is forever prevalent, especially when a proposed choice of opening bid is upon the dealer, while, of course, holding your subject hand, making the choice of what to open the bidding with, indeed wide and varied, but unable to predict.

While I do not necessarily either endorse 4 clubs or (IMO) a simple 1 club, I do think that either could be right, as could 3 clubs or, although I would not consider it, a simple pass and await others to bid before I decide if, and if yes, what to bid at my second turn after the other three players have set the table by their first bid choices.

To me, this judgment, even more than great declarer play and/or world class defense, is primary to obtaining consistently positive results. However, to always be right just doesn’t exist, nor ever has, but knowing and then gaining experience (often depending on your specific opponents as well as the strengths and bite one’s tongue, weaknesses of your current partner) should also factor in one’s choice as dealer.

Sorry for my long winded analysis, but, as is obvious, I do sincerely think that all of the above should be quickly considered as to your choice of opening bid, as well as what form of bridge one is playing (tournament or social) and most important, the experience of both your partner, and those, no doubt, worthy opponents who are playing against you.

In any event, good luck, at the table Pete, and thank you David for your earned and always respected views.

Makler HeidelbergOctober 28th, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Der Artikel ist wirklich gut. Das Thema hat mich schon lange interessiert und
ich konnte hier noch einiges ergänzendes finden. Ich kann es kaum erwarten, weitere Blogeinträge zu
lesen. Danke und Grüße aus Heidelberg Marco Feindler