Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 4th, 2019

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.

Edward de Bono

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


Over the next few months, I will present weekly sets of play deals that will each possess a certain similarity in theme. This week’s deals pose a problem for declarer with a singleton facing length. I may not always find a unified approach to all the problems within a set: Maybe the only wisdom to emerge will be that what makes bridge so difficult — and interesting — is that extrapolating from one example to the next is harder than it might appear.

In today’s deal, the South hand is difficult to describe at the second round of bidding. A call of two hearts would be an underbid, but his actual choice of three hearts is a slight overstatement (because of the weak trump spots).

After West leads a spade, declarer can see that he has two likely diamond losers and nowhere to discard them, since it seems too hard to set up the clubs and cash them for discards. Accordingly, South needs to play trumps for one loser if he can, and there is only one practical way to do it.

If declarer had two trumps in dummy, he would lead twice toward the king-queen and try to work out the best play on the second round. But with one trump facing a six-card suit, only one lie of the cards will see you home, and that is finding three trumps, including the jack, with East. So, declarer immediately leads to the 10. When it forces the ace and trumps break, declarer is home.

The winning defense against four hearts is repeated diamond leads, which will promote the heart nine for West.

Your target here might be to limit the number of tricks you blow on opening lead to one! Though there is spade length to your left, it still feels right to lead that suit (though a deceptive spade four or two is possible). Your spots are so bad that if partner has shortness, this lead may not cost anything, except to clear up a guess for declarer that he likely would have gotten right anyway.


♠ Q 8 4 3 2
 J 6 4
 K 10 5
♣ J 7
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 3 NT All 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 18th, 2019 at 10:26 am

There actually is another lie of the heart suit that will see you home, and that is E holding AJ doubleton. When S leads dummy’s H, if E plays the A, end of problems provided H are 3-3 or J drops in 3 rounds. But suppose E plays J, S plays K or Q and it wins. Now what? Presumably S plays a low H to the next trick. But suppose E played the J holding today’s hand. In that case, I think E should be awarded the medal for best defensive play of the day.

Iain ClimieFebruary 18th, 2019 at 11:18 am

Hi David, Bobby,

The false card also works with AJx, but great effort in spotting the ploy in the first place and a new one on me.



Bobby WolffFebruary 18th, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Hi David,

Nothing short of sensational, except if declarer had held instead s. Kx, h. KQ9xxxx, d. A9x, c.x and declined to play East for the AJ doubleton, but instead rather the J10 doubleton and thus presented West with a surprise setting trick.

Yes, declarer would have theoretically miss guessed, but nevertheless when brilliance meets lucky, sometimes lucky wins.

However, whatever the actual holding would have been, odds are declarer might have ended the round with either much greater respect for East or, of course, either feeling sorry for his ineptitude or worse, explaining to him how he should always play low from AJx when a singleton trump is led from dummy.

In any event all of us, thanks to David, may have learned more respect for Edward de Bono’s timely, beginning quote.

Bobby WolffFebruary 18th, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Why do you think I love the bridge interplay among our group? It is primarily for players like you and me to grow as we go and what better teachers can we have to allow it to happen?

Instead of love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage, it is bridge and yearning like play worth learning.

OzzieFebruary 19th, 2019 at 5:59 am

Why did they not consider playing 3 no trump?

Bobby WolffFebruary 19th, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Hi Ozzie,

First and foremost, welcome to AOB.

Back to business. North, of course, could have chosen to bid 3NT and if so, South would not have had a good enough reason to overturn him (or her).

However, methinks North opted for 4 hearts, despite the lonely singleton he had as support for partner, because of his holding of two aces not KQx, KJx, or QJx wherein aces tend to provide sure tricks opposite singletons or weak doubletons wherein lesser high cards, especially when together shine in NT, thus more valuable.

No doubt some, sitting North, would gamble 3NT, but also the diamond suit with only the jack, could be unlucky enough to sink
a NT game opposite an unlucky shortness.

No doubt, on any one hand, 3NT could produce a better contract, but the experience described above would likely tilt the decision in favor of raising partner instead, at least by a seasoned veteran of the game.

Thanks for your to the point question and, if possible, don’t be a stranger.

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