Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Logic is like the sword — those who appeal to it, shall perish by it.

Samuel Butler

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


South’s opening bid of two clubs followed by a rebid of two no-trump shows 22-24 points, and it would be cowardly of North to bid less than seven no-trump. South needs all four diamond tricks to make his contract, so he must play on the side suits to get a count.

He can discover that West started with three clubs, as West discards a spade on the fourth club while East pitches two spades.

South next runs the hearts. When East drops the heart 10 on the third round, even though this may be a false card, it appears that West started with four hearts and East with only three.

South now leads his second spade, and both opponents follow. Since neither the 10 nor the nine has yet appeared, South should assume that West has the 10 for his opening lead. While it is possible that West began with a short holding including both the jack and 10, it is far more likely that he has length than shortage. Since the 10 has not appeared, he must have begun with at least four spades.

Let’s do the math: West started with at least four spades, at least three hearts and exactly three clubs. At most, therefore, West started with only three diamonds; he might have had only one, but never four.

So South takes the first two diamonds with dummy’s top cards. The distribution of the diamonds is revealed when West shows out at the 11th trick, allowing South to take the marked finesse at trick 12, to bring home his grand slam.

You do not have enough to drive to game — if your partner has a Yarborough, you have remarkably few tricks. But this hand is too good for a simple rebid of one no-trump after doubling, which suggests about 18 to 20 HCP, so you should bid two no-trump. If your partner passes, you may be in the wrong part-score, but it is the best way to get to your most likely game.


♠ K Q
 A Q J
 A 10 8 7
♣ A Q 10 9
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
Dbl. 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


jim2January 9th, 2018 at 1:33 pm

First of all, West will surely play the 10S or maybe the 9S on the second spade. After all, the player can see declarer must have only two spades for playing the second card of the marriage under the AS. One basic rule in counting defense is to play the card one is known to have if at all possible.

Declarer doubly guarantees that by saving spades for last.

Second, I would suggest that, if declarer really wants to have any chance to gain intel on the second spade, to play that at trick 2 or in the middle of other plays (trying to disguise it as transportation).

I see no reason to save the spade play for last.

bobbywolffJanuary 9th, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your spade play at trick two from West (either the 10 or the 9, mine leaning toward the 9 for both teasing and realism purposes) and your later discussion may be worth pure gold to up and coming players who are making sincere efforts to get there from here.

As you crystal clearly described what declarer was doing at trick 2 (everyone, please think about it and as the quote suggested) logic spoak (and in a gigantic way) exactly what a good declarer would always do, attempt to get a count on the defenders hands before the “big” moment at the death when that same declarer will have to commit on how to play a certain suit, (in this case, diamonds).

Applying the obvious, what is good for their side, is the opposite for the other, enabling both defenders to do their best to obfuscate what declarer is trying to secure, a full count.

Therefore, if strength is playing against strength, declarer will go right in the end, since EW must confess the truth to what their individual club numbers are, allowing declarer to play East (correctly) for the possible diamond length.

Taking over for Jim2, and possibly ruffling some feathers, yes declarer should lead spades early (trick 2 is not too soon) before the defense is awakened to what should have been an alarm when a spade is immediately led back. Against most bridge opponents, a super declarer will gain enough Intel (Jim2’s keen and appropriate word) to override the club distribution and therefore make a grand slam which, at other tables will have gone down, and through no fault of declarer (remember the club distribution) but only the not with it lack of knowledge from their naive defensive opponents.

High-level bridge is not the easiest game to play, and if educators could wake up and understand the incredible advantage of sheer logic, (like what has already been done in much of Europe and all of China) our overall school system will have simply improved by bounds and leaps, to be forever blessed with having the greatest mind game ever invented teach our youngsters how to think.

Thank you, Jim2, for seizing the opportunity to explain and, above all, taking the time to do it.

Finally, I am proud of so many on this site who share their bridge knowledge with others, which not only benefits all who listen, but, in reality, only shouts out the majestic features of our great game.

Mircea1January 11th, 2018 at 10:09 am

This is brilliant. Thanks both for sharing your thoughts.

And thank you so much Bobby for creating and maintaining this vehicle (Aces) where mere pedestrians can hitch a ride to higher grounds on planet Bridge.

bobbywolffJanuary 11th, 2018 at 11:48 am

Hi Mircea1,

First and foremost, much thanks for your so very kind words, which make Jim2’s original thoughts so understandingly useful, brilliant, while not complicated, and most assuredly, directly on point.

Liken this hand to an oft quoted tactic in many competitions, from mere games, to serious business decisions when the simple phrase of
“The battle is joined” is sometimes even uttered, but more often kept secret, hoping that even worthy opponents, become slow on the uptake.

Declarer knows at trick one, that 7NT can be made, if only he does not falter after getting an unlucky diamond break, if and when it happens.

The mere fact that declarer has not claimed his contract is substantial evidence that indeed he, at the least, has a problem which, by playing on, makes that evidence come to life.

Thus, and at an early time in the play, both expert defenders should realize what that problem is almost sure to be, and therefore combine their clever defense (falsecards in spades, especially by West) to simply muddy the waters.

Even, when at the death of this hand, if declarer then guesses right in diamonds, both defenders should feel very good about themselves for, and together, giving best effort to mislead him.

Such is just one of the immense challenges which is so ever present in our off-the-charts great game and that alone might (should) inspire players (especially ones with built-in talent, but also ones who have to work a bit harder)) to virtually fall in love with only just attempting to play the game as well as it can be done.

To be sure, I enjoy your description of planet Bridge.