Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 29th, 2017

Don’t keep a man guessing too long — he’s sure to find the answer somewhere else.

Mae West

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


When South opens one no-trump, North drives directly to the no-trump game. If North’s diamonds were exchanged with his spades or hearts, he would show his major on the way to three no-trump, to offer a choice of games.

After a spade lead, South must put up dummy’s spade queen, his only chance to win a trick with that card. East covers the queen with the king, and South must hold up his ace twice, hoping to exhaust East of his spades. When East errs by playing a third spade (yes, a club shift would defeat the game), South wins and is one trick short of his contract. Sooner or later, South needs an additional trick in hearts. But South begins by running four of the diamonds in case the defenders err again or come under real pressure.

South must leave a diamond entry to dummy, since it would be pointless to develop a heart trick if he could not reach it. He lays down the heart ace, then leads a low heart toward dummy. When West plays low, declarer must decide whether to play the queen or the 10 from the dummy.

This may look like a guess, but South actually has no choice. If West had the heart king, he would take it immediately and cash out his good spades. South must therefore assume that East has the heart king. The only hope is to insert dummy’s heart 10, in the hope that West has the jack. When the 10 forces the king, South gets his extra heart trick and his contract.

In modern Standard American, where the two-over-one response is game forcing, the best way for opener to define his hand at his second turn is to rebid two no-trump, to show 12-14 or 18-plus balanced. Meanwhile, a jump to three no-trump would suggest 15-17 and a semibalanced hand. That being so, simply raise to three no-trump, knowing partner will bid on with extras.


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


David WarheitJanuary 12th, 2018 at 9:14 am

Minor point: S should not play the HA before leading the H3. If E has both the J & K of H, S only goes down one instead of 2 or more. More than minor point: how about if W holds HK and not HJ, what if he casually plays low on the given line? Yes he risks not defeating the contract, but apparently even our distinguished host would fall for this ruse.

Iain ClimieJanuary 12th, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can West do anything to deflect East from automatically playing another spade here, since he can read South’s spade holding when the 8 and 7 appear? Of course he could overtake the 2nd spade and switch to a club but that could be very wrong. Playing the S9 on the 2nd spade may not help (it could be AK9xx) but should playing the S2 on the 2nd round be seen as suit preference as East should be able to work out that South hasn’t got A872?

One problem from South’s viewpoint is that East could feasibly have DKJ, but not the CQ or HK when just going passive is a perfectly sensible approach to the defence. As the cards lie, of course, West can overtake the 2nd spade and play a club but this could be very wrong.



Michael BeyroutiJanuary 12th, 2018 at 2:43 pm

did you mean “from West’s viewpoint…”?

bobbywolffJanuary 12th, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Hi David,

Yes, and no doubt, while perhaps originally intending your comment to be more whimsical than authentic, while playing IMPs or rubber bridge, it is normal (however that word is supposed to apply) that everyone (beginners, all the way to world beaters) dances to the same drummer.

However, do they really? If in spite of fewer Imps involved, should that mean that a very good player should disregard it and make an inferior play (rising in this case when declarer is certainly bridge logical enough to “get” the intended line of automatically finessing the 10 since the king MUST be with East. At least for all practical purposes, from West’s perspective the real hand MUST be the way the key cards are distributed.

MUST indeed, possibly David, making me think that a new dimension of bridge elegance will (should) go for the gusto, if for no other reason than to be able to stick one’s chest out on the possibility of striving to simply be the best among the best.

Yes, somewhat surreal, but, of course, my storybook ending would have the EW pair either winning this match by one IMP or possibly this matchpoint game by one point.

Victor Mollo, are you listening?

Thanks, David and yes your former possibly distinguished host just did an about face.

Iain ClimieJanuary 12th, 2018 at 6:33 pm

HI Michael,

Spot on although declarer often benefits when defenders start thinking – or is that overly cynical?


bobbywolffJanuary 12th, 2018 at 6:38 pm

Hi Iain,

While all (or to be safe, almost all) of what you say is true. However, in order for too many hands to take much too much time to play or defend, bridge is still the master, and while playing a game which needs to have time restrictions plus, and always looming, ethical rules, which sometimes cause concern with very slow random spot card followings can roust partner into possibly taking advantage of what can later be deemed as unauthorized information.

Yes, while my above rant may ring true, still our game itself is complicated enough without introducing the possibility of a hesitation “waking” partner to a possible switch, when on most occasions the tempo is much more cut and dried and therefore speedy.

Not commenting any more than that, except to recognize what very experienced TDs and then appeals committees should already know, it is sometimes a delicate decision between discouraging thought and expecting all players to play at an even tempo (practically impossible, but nevertheless in the mix).

No more comment, except to say that thought sometimes is a necessary evil in order to play well, but what about that wake-up call to partner—exit me when discussing the solution!

bobbywolffJanuary 12th, 2018 at 6:43 pm

Hi Michael and Iain,

Three people discussing, with no common denominator, but still important enough to enable otherwise very intelligent people to at least be privately aware of administrative problems which plague bridge, but, in fact, have no acceptable answer.

BobliptonJanuary 12th, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Alas, Bobby, the Rabbit had just come from Deauville. Nibbling on a chocolate biscuit, he declined to cover declarer’s second heart with what he took to be the jack. “I know I am not the best player in the Club,” he admitted ruefully after the Hog had won his Jack with a chortle, and returned the suit to his partner’s now-bare King, “But I know enough to make the Secretary Bird guess about the jack’s location.”


bobbywolffJanuary 13th, 2018 at 2:06 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, the worst is to duck the king because you do not know that you hold the setting trick, the middle is to grab the king because you do, but the better is to duck, win the day, and then be admired for your talent, but the supreme would have an opponent rise with the king, making the hand, and beyond doubt showing you the greater respect.

Another Hideous Hog, but not, at least at this point in his career, a known genius who will always rise above.

Sensible? No, Convoluted? You bet.