Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 8th, 2019

Respect was mingled with surprise.

Sir Walter Scott

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


Today’s deal is another example of how to tackle a long suit facing a singleton. To my mind, the correct route in this one is somewhat counterintuitive. You declare three no-trump on a spade lead and put in the jack, expecting it to hold, since the lead appears to be fourth-highest from an honor. When East covers with the queen, you must win the king, and suddenly you are short of entries to establish the clubs. If you cross to dummy and lead a club to the jack and king, your only re-entry to hand is in hearts, so you will not be able both to set up and cash the clubs.

Therefore, you must go after diamonds rather than clubs, and you can afford to lose three tricks, but not four. If diamonds break, you have enough entries to set the suit up, so you must concentrate on the 4-2 breaks. What are the sensible options?

It seems logical to lead to an honor in dummy and duck the next diamond, which copes fine with the 4-2 breaks where West has both honors, and with two honors doubleton in West. This turns out to be exactly half the 4-2 breaks (15 of the 30 possible breaks).

But you can do better. If you duck both the first and second diamond, you will succeed whenever either East or West has one or both honors doubleton, and there are nine such distributions with either East or West. That gives you 18 of the possible 30 distributions where this approach wins, making it the best line.

A natural two no-trump now seems right. That leaves room for your partner to show delayed support for clubs; if he doesn’t, you will surely not wish to play in that suit. If your partner bids three diamonds, you might bid three hearts to offer some delayed support for that suit. Alternatively, a call of two spades may get you to no-trump from your partner’s hand. Your clubs don’t seem quite good enough to repeat.


♠ K 4 3
 A 9 2
♣ A J 10 5 3 2
South West North East
    1 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 22nd, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for this week’s columns and they show how useful and effective study away form the table can be. Knowing these combinations saves much sweat and toil at the table when you won’t have time to work them through anyway. I accept there can be factors which change matters (e.g. opponent’s bidding and the count on other suits) but these combinations are like scales and other exercises for musician; all the background hard work pays off in the concert hall.



bobbywolffFebruary 22nd, 2019 at 4:45 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt you have blended the necessary music in order to just have the melody for at least auditioning to play well with what it requires in bridge, to at least play competitively with those sometimes more than just worthy opponents.

And when doing so, like this week of column hands, the numbers learned are not as overwhelming as they may first appear. Only a small adjustment to bridge language e.g. numbers related to possible winning tricks, although decidedly different, as you are well aware of, are still, with a little adjustment, but determination, to both play that piano and not fiddle around while thinking, should trumpet enough success to blow that horn.

And any and everyone who can fight his way through that corny above, can certainly master those required melodies of relatively simple numbers.

Much thanks for comparing our learning process to producing beautiful music, since IMO both the playing of top level music is similarly artistic to both creating and then taking tricks plus the sometimes majesty of defense encountering in bridge, while also so in the preliminary scores of both, the orchestration of the lead in, which precedes the melodious final beautiful sonata.