Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Three o’clock is always too late or too early for what you want to do.

Jean-Paul Sartre

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

*Game-forcing, might be short


In reporting on this deal in the Daily Bulletin from the Yeh Bros Cup in 2017, the editors spoke just a little too soon when they indicated that declarer might need second sight to bring home his game.

As Geir Helgemo showed, basic numeracy might suffice in the right circumstances. A total of 10 declarers brought home four spades — though twice it was declared from the North seat, when the club tenace was protected and declarer had significant extra chances.

The play in four hearts in the match between Sweden and Monaco saw the Monaco West lead a diamond rather than a club. The Swedish declarer missed his chance when, after winning cheaply in hand, he knocked out the heart ace. He won the next diamond, then completed drawing trumps and led out the spade king. At this point, he realized the avoidance play of a low spade to the nine would fail if East won and played a third diamond, leaving the spades blocked. So, he played the spade ace and a third spade. West could win and play a club through to doom the contract.

In the other room, the defenders did lead clubs. East cashed his ace and led a low club. After the defenders played on trump, declarer found East, a passed hand, with two aces and, inferentially, the club jack (or West would have led the club queen to trick one). West was likely to hold the spade queen, or East might have opened. So Helgemo advanced the spade jack from his hand, and could now play the spade suit for no loser.

Your cue-bid sets up a force until a suit has been agreed. You could now invite game by bidding only three hearts, but isn’t this hand a force to game? Even though your diamond honors may be worthless, game is surely going to be no worse than the spade finesse. I would bid four hearts, but make the spade two a club, and I bid only three hearts.


♠ K J 7 4 2
 K Q 6 3
 Q J
♣ 10 3
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 2 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoSeptember 29th, 2018 at 9:39 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
It is not clear why the declarer at the first table led K of spades after drawing trumps. If he expected east to hold singleton Q of spades, he could have lead a low spade from hand and passed it. Singleton ten of spades in east hand will not help south as the spade suit cannot be brought home as west will not cover the second spade when ten appears on K. South can lead a spade to A in dummy but the contract should fail.
perhaps he missed an easy way to make the contract after the friendly lead of a diamond. After clearing trumps, he could have lead a low spade and when west plays small, south can infer that west does not have both Q and ten of spades and and hence plays nine from dummy and not bothered if east wins with ten . Now the contract is safe unlss the spade ten happens to be singleton as east cannot do damage to clubs from his side

Iain ClimieSeptember 29th, 2018 at 10:42 am

Hi Bobby,

A slightly odd and trappy hand from last night. Third in hand at pairs after two passes, I opened 1H (4 card majors) on AK AJ10xxx Qxxx x LHO passed, partner bid 2N (Jacoby) so I bid 4H. LHO kicks off with a smallish spade and dummy is a little disappointing: QJ9 Qxxx xx KQxx. I take the spade Ace (RHO playing small on the S9) and lead a club to the King which holds, a nice surprise but it is still pairs. HQ off table, 8 with no discernible flicker, so do you finesse? It is odds on but East (if holding Kx) doesn’t know about the extra heart length.



Bruce KarlsonSeptember 29th, 2018 at 12:53 pm

At favorable, methinks E should double 2 C for lead. Could be dicey I suppose but…thoughts

Bob LiptonSeptember 29th, 2018 at 2:14 pm

After the fortunate lead, draw trump, astonished at the break (with me East would have the stiff Ace) and lead the club towards the king. If the King is good, you can afford the safety play. If not, you have the inference that West has the SK


bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2018 at 2:52 pm


Thanks for your effort to analyze today’s hand correctly.

All too often inexperienced declarers confuse percentage plays with hand winning plays, which, in turn, emphasizes Jean-Paul Sartre’s (if you’ll excuse the expression) timely quote.

To continue, Gilbert & Sullivan
musically could state (to the tune of “let the punishment fit the crime”) and from a bridge statement, bellow “let the bridge line, follow the right sign, at the exact time”.

Please excuse, but since I am practically tone deaf, you’ll have to endure what’s left.

And like more music once said. “someone to watch over me”.

bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Hi Iain,

FWIW, I think after passing, two way Drury works better than Jacoby when both 2 clubs and 2 diamonds are artifiical with 2C 3 card major suit support, but 2D 4 card support with 9+, allowing the partnership to stop at 2 of the major instead of 3, and according to Doug Drury, the Canadian inventor (many years ago), Eric Murray the late and great Canadian bridge player credited Doug’s convention to allow him to escape for only -200 at the two level, being undoubled rather than -800 at the three level.

The decision from both the possible defensive coverer of the queen of trumps when led from dummy with Qxxx (even when declarer is playing 4 card majors) with the Kx and the declarer is better left to both table action and psychology rather than to strict percentage, rendering IMO a blind opinion ineffective.

I can only suggest to at least attempt to “read” one’s RHO, both to his and your experience and of course, cunning. (How’s that for avoiding an error?). Lot’s of reasons for covering and/or not!

However, something definite would be just another advantage for 4 card major players, which, until playing against them, often remains unnoticed.

And, of course, I agree with you, his Jacoby 2NT support on a passed hand showed great confidence in your dummy play, so I’ll leave the description at that.

Bob LiptonSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Correction: that West has the Spade Queen.


bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Hi Bruce,

Yes, doubling 2 clubs does have its advantage, that is until and if one’s LHO redoubles and then goes on to score up a telephone number for redoubled overtricks making. Not often but still alive.

Overall, whether that risky double becomes a plus or a minus has much to do with the overall partnership personalities your side is playing against rather than, (I think) strict percentages which I would have no way of predicting.

Iain ClimieSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks but the sting in the tail is that the defence can actually beat the hand regardless, assuming LHO (who holds HK alone) doesn’t duck the CK (clearly he was happy to let me get to dummy to take the finesse, although he hadn’t expected the singleton club). My LHO actually had Dxx so he could take the CA, put partner in with the DAK and get a trump promotion. I was less than cheerful to get 50% on the hand but somebody made 11 after a spade less. Clearly some form of Coca Cola coup occurred (or they just took Zia’s Bols Bridge Tip on board – if they don’t cover, they don’t have it).



bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Hi Bob,

Actually by pulling off that avoidance play (losing a spade trick to your harmless RHO rather than LHO will, if successful, significant distributions) will enable a make regardless of who holds that evil ace of clubs.

Also you meant, losing a trick to the spade queen not the king, but with this spade combination either one, if adversely held, would be fatal if lost to LHO (with, of course, the ace of clubs offside).

Thanks for your imagination, albeit at least, a trifle chancy.

However your lead directing double would have kept your side afloat denying the declarer the luxury of later in the hand, safety plays

bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Hi Bob,

Sorry for the “crossed in the mail” mention of the spade monarchs.

bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, all you say is true, especially the details of the perils of guessing wrong.

However, as bridge play improves all over the world (and it definitely has, likely because of “bridge in the schools” with an emphasis as time goes by, Zia’s apt bridge quote some years ago, will turn into, only usually covering or not depending on whether they should, may make playing it at high levels, much more commonplace than before.

Peter GallSeptember 29th, 2018 at 5:03 pm


I am writing about your post from September 15, 2018 (which is the same as your column in the September 1, 2018 edition of the Vancouver Sun). The contract was 6 spades, which you said was made on a diamond lead, as was 6 no trump at the other table. You then went on to describe how 6 spades could be made on the more difficult lead of a club.

My problem is that I can’t figure out how either 6 spades or 6 no trump can be made on a diamond lead. It seems to me that you have to lose the King of diamonds and the Queen of spades. I would very much appreciate you explaining this to me.

On a side note, I have a friend who is a beginner bridge player. Which of your books would you recommend? And how can I buy them?

Thanks very much.

bobbywolffSeptember 30th, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Hi Peter,

First, thanks for writing and thus checking in with the rest of our daily bridge group.

Now, to the answer to your bridge query, concerning the hand which appeared in the newspapers on Sept 1, of this year and thus on this site on Sept. 15.

Declarer must win the ace of clubs in dummy, a heart to the ace and a spade to the king. Then 2 clubs discarded on the KQ of hearts, followed by a club ruffed in hand and the second spade to the ace in dummy. Then a high heart from dummy, continuing until East either ruffs in or if not, thrown in with a spade from dummy, forcing East to die a thousand deaths by now having to lead away from the king of diamonds (or just lead the king with the same result).

An unusually large number of tricks taken (12), but both the cards held by NS and even luckier, the way the EW hands were distributed made it all possible. However there is much to learn by careful study of why (but likely not by beginners, your friend, not you).

I have only written one book, the Lone Wolff which is only a study of bridge history, not a how-to-play so what I’ll do is recommend Alfred Sheinwolds 5 weeks to Winning Briidge, an old time beginner’s book, which to my knowledge is still at least one of the leading books for those who want to learn our great game.

BTW, and FWIW, The Lone Wolff was a pretty accurate assessment of what is going on right now in the Bridge World as we are undergoing a difficult time adjusting to shenanigans going on with various cultures stupidly and often deceptively denying what is definitely true and thrown at us directly at our face.

However, that is not your concern at this moment, but it is mine and hopefully the whole worldwide bridge world will turn it into a plus from what it appears to be now. The name now is nothing more than “A CHEATING STALEMATE” with guilty Nationalities trying to protect their own, instead of ridding the bridge world of those specific miscreants. Needless to say that overt cheating, by even a mostly average partnership will never be beaten in the long run, since the beauty of bridge, among other giant features, is the partnership aspect of not knowing specifically the layout around the table, but by expertise come closer than competitors and thus finding the correct way to win….outplaying them rather than out cheating them.

Thanks for listening to my rant and hopefully keep in touch.

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