Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 26th, 2017

There is endless merit in a man’s knowing when to have done.

Thomas Carlyle

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


In today’s deal South was not discouraged by his partner’s failure to respond to his opening bid, and still found a way to drive to game. The contract was not hopeless, but the real problem was to get to dummy and to maneuver to lose no tricks in the majors. South saw he could only get to dummy with the club nine but would then have to use this single entry to take two heart finesses and one spade finesse. Before you read on, can you see the precise sequence of plays necessary to achieve this?

Declarer wins the diamond ace, knocks out the club ace, loses a diamond, and wins the next trump in dummy. He must next lead the heart queen from dummy and unblock the jack from his own hand. This allows dummy to retain the lead for the next heart finesse. Finally, South can take the spade finesse.

Note that South would fail in his contract if he started by leading the heart nine or 10 from dummy as his initial play in that suit. East would play low and would save the heart king, for when declarer advanced dummy’s queen. This would force South to win the second heart in his own hand, and now there would be no entry to dummy for the spade finesse.

It would be equally unsuccessful to lead the heart queen and forget to throw the jack. Again, South would have to win the second heart in his own hand and kiss goodbye to dummy.

The jump to three clubs sets up a game force, so there is no need to bid more than three diamonds now. Let partner produce his heart raise or probe for three no-trump at his next turn without taking away any space. Jumping to four diamonds might leave him awkwardly placed.


♠ K 8 6
 K 7 4 3
 K 7 6 3
♣ 6 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 1 ♠ 3 ♣ 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


jim2November 9th, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Even if this card combination is not recognized, declarer could still get home on many layouts (including this one) by using the card played by East to decide upon winning the opening lead.

For example, if East plays the KD, win and lead a high club. Alternatively, if East encourages with a middle spot, duck. Unless West somehow finds the AC shift and then reverts to diamonds, declarer’s play is much easier because West will be endplayed with the AC. (Wouldn’t it be delicious if West desperately underled in diamonds and the 8D won a trick!)

Iain ClimieNovember 9th, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Hi Jim2,

I think you need to swap the D5 and D8 round to whet your appetite here after DQ, x, King, Ace but I see the point. Elegant though the HQ (unblocking J) is though, how many East’s would ruin declarer’s day (although not the result) by covering an honour with an honour when the HQ is led?


Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

The closest contact sport this hand might represent is dancing.

The style and grace of the theme of today is similar to dance and/or acrobatic ventures of gliding through the attention to detail of arranging to be in the right hand (declarer or dummy), with today’s shortage of entries to dummy screaming out to be careful.

Breaking it down, like many expert plays at bridge, this one is not so difficult, but one slip is enough to destroy that opportunity, making it necessary to totally concentrate on what could be labeled, bridge rhythm.

And to Iain, the very good player would never miss the opportunity while holding the Q10x in dummy, opposite his theoretical AJ doubleton, to lead the queen enticing a cover so that an extra trick in dummy would be created out of thin air. Yes, high-level bridge requires, if you will excuse the expression of “not missing a trick” when on the prowl for a defensive error.

True, it may be disappointing to some, that rules like always covering an honor need to be religiously followed are sometimes flawed by obvious exceptions, including the opposite of rising (2nd seat) with an unsupported king when the dummy has something like Q109x(x) and has led a little one, but in fact only has the singleton jack in hand (not the ace).

Yes, the game can be difficult and that is why intense concentration needs to be exercised, especially when defending with full knowledge of the specific bidding of the opponents (complete with tempo breaks) plus your partner’s choice of opening lead and, of course, the way declarer goes about the play.

Just another reason why there are not now, nor EVER will be child bridge proteges or what could be named instead, bridge genius’, since the complexities which arise, require varied and years of experience in addition to just born talent.

Furthermore, if some bridge player, no matter how well rated or great he might be, who claims he has never been victimized, that person may be superior at our beautiful game, but the downside of him, is that he is not to be believed.

Mircea1November 9th, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Very nice (and useful for my level) comments, Bobby – as always.

I used to play for about a year with a much better player than me and every session he astonished me with some brilliant plays. Every time I asked him after the game how did he come up with those plays he would say “this game is hard”, meaning you really need to concentrate to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and hopefully come up with the right answer.

What Bobby says that there will never be a child prodigy in bridge, raises the greatness of our game even higher. Too bad it’s played with cards – too many people wrongly associate them with vice and other menaces that give a bad rep to bridge.

Sorry for my long rant.

Bobby, if we agree that South’s bid on BWTA is 3D, how should we interpret North’s continuations? Do you agree with this:

3H – G/F, supposedly tri-suited with short spades and 3 hearts (with 4 hearts bid 3H)
3S – 1st or 2nd round control in spades, diamonds agreed
3NT – to play
4C – 1st or 2nd round control in clubs, diamonds agreed
4D – RKCB, diamonds agreed
4H, 4S, 4NT – ? (do we need to worry about this?)

Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Hi Mircea1,

First, thanks for your perceptive beginning, which you call a rant, but, if so, very appropriate and likely necessary, if only to understand that bridge is the greatest mind game, and if not, very close. Also, in order to move up, much thought and practice needs to be a consistent and major part of an effort to get there from here.

1. 3H-Yes, when partner rebid 3C the partnership became forced to game, never to be violated, simply because both partners need to have FULL trust that the bidding will not be passed below game, with the exception being doubling the opponents. 3H will usually mean, holding exactly 3 hearts and because of this specific sequence should show, at most a singleton spade (with almost no exceptions, but perhaps with, s. xx, h. AQx, d. AQJxx, c. AQJ
it would be OK). BTW, when someone shouts I would never open 2NT with a worthless doubleton (ridiculous), it merely, at least to me, confirms that he or she is not familiar with the high-level game, since to not open 2NT with the above, will only create more problems than it solves. Yes, when holding 4 trumps for partner, jump to 4 hearts the first time when no shortness is present, or if and when it is, then jump to 3 or 4 of the short suit.

2. 3 spades shows usually first round control of spades, (AQ, h. x, d. AQJxx, c. AKxxx or sometimes (fairly rare) only 2nd round control, but also indicates extra values such as: s. x, h. Ax, d. AQJxxx c. AKJx or s. AQ, h. xx. d. AQJxxx, c. AKJ.

3. 3NT might show, s. Kx, h. xx, d. AQJxxx. c. AKQ or, s. KQx, h. Q, d. AQxxx, c. AQJx

4. 4C might show. s. x, h. AQ, d. AQxxx c. AKxxx with diamonds supposedly agreed, but in case of a false preference, partner holding:
s. xxx, h. Kxxxx, d. Kx c. J10x, allows the partnership to then get back into clubs if the responder merely then raises to 5 clubs. Obviously then that raise to 5 clubs should, because of the fairly common “false preference” given after a hand has jumped to show a very strong hand, but still the trump suit is to be determined, any well honed aspiring partnership must include that provision.

5. 4D-Yes many partnerships have added this provision, which is logical, but beyond what I should get into and is wholly up to that partnership to venture forth with such modern improvements. However, and under older times bidding caveats a raise to 4 diamonds merely would say, “I still am interested in a diamond slam, but have no important bid to make, since I have already bid my main controls. That interest could be brought about with an extra diamond or a “key” queen, but then leaving:

6. 5D-As nothing less, nothing more to say and unless you deem otherwise (and probably had ever since my 3 club GF) anything further is on you, and if you then make a further cue bid, you are still interested in a diamond grand slam. Of course, regarding matchpoints instead of “real” bridge, sometimes 6NT needs to be bid (to get the extra points) and that adds, and COMPLICATES heretofore simple grand slam possibilities to the point of frustration for old fuddy-duddies like me.

As for 4H and 4S, just cue bids since it is now long past the possibility of playing a heart contract. and 4NT, at least to me, is my old fashioned style, (still works pretty well, though I am definitely not claiming that it would be as good, only simpler) as a 4 diamond key card ask, keeping in mind that the early key card ask does lose my above meaning of still interested, but nothing, at this time, to really say.

I hope this is at least, fairly logical, and makes some sense to you.

And BTW, Good luck!