Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 13, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: Both

9 3
8 5 3
Q 9 8 7 3
8 7 2
West East
Q 8 5 4 6
9 2 Q 7 6 4
J 6 10 5 4 2
J 10 9 5 3 A K Q 6
A K J 10 7 2
A K J 10
West North East South
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 3* Pass 3
Pass 3 Pass 4
All Pass

*Second negative

Opening Lead: ♣J

“Insurance: An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.”

— Ambrose Bierce

Sitting South, plan the play in four spades after the defense starts with two rounds of clubs. Remember, when a contract looks undemanding, that is the time to consider what might go wrong. It is all too easy to feel overconfident, perhaps wondering if you might make a slam if both major-suit queens drop.

If you simply play out your top spades, you will be fine if spades break 3-2. But suppose someone shows out. When you knock out the trump queen, the defenders will force you again in clubs. Now if you draw the last trump, you will have no trumps left. When the defenders win the heart queen, they will have at least one club to cash and you will go down. If you leave the trump out, West ruffs away your fourth heart winner.

Can you see a solution? At trick two, you should play the JACK of spades — retaining the spade nine in dummy for emergencies. Suppose West wins with the queen and continues clubs. You ruff and play the JACK of hearts. If East wins, he cannot attack clubs again because you can ruff in the dummy, cross to your hand with a diamond, and draw trumps.

Incidentally, it would not do West any good to duck the jack of spades. You simply cash the ace and king of spades and lead out your hearts. You have gained a tempo in the trump suit, and thus have a trump to spare.

ANSWER: If you had a full opener, you would reopen with a double for takeout in case partner was sitting with a penalty double. Here I would be reluctant to do this and would simply pass the hand out, hoping that the opponents have missed a game. Although your partner might have a decent hand with a spade stack, that may not be enough to set one spade!


South Holds:

Q 7 6 4
10 5 4 2
A K Q 6
West North East South
Pass Pass 1
1 Pass Pass ?

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, feel free to leave comments at this blog. This column is reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc. Copyright 2009.


David M. GostynMarch 27th, 2009 at 11:16 am

“‘At trick two, you should play the JACK of spades”

Sorry, perhaps it is the old problem of being divided by a common language. I note that in US, the first floor of a building is the one below the one that we call the first floor in the UK. Perhaps, similarly, in US English ‘trick 2’ is the one that we in the UK refer to as trick 3, but I doubt it.

It is clear that when the defence plays a second round of clubs declarer must ruff it. It is not obvious from the narrative, or from my bridge logic, that it helps for him to ruff with any spade higher than the 2.

But it is certainly a great play to lead the jack of spades AT TRICK 3, for reasons very clearly described in the text.

Bobby WolffMarch 27th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Hi David M.,


You are, of course 100% correct, but you should admit that trick 2 is very close to trick 3 and, in America, be used interchangeably. Also if West had the doubleton queen of spades and Qxxxx in hearts he would, after winning his queen of spades and continuing clubs, be able to now win his queen of hearts and set the contract by having his partner now ruff the second heart. Worse still, if West had the doubleton queen of spades and East the singleton queen of hearts, but six diamonds, East could then win his queen of hearts, always onside for the declarer, and now give his partner a diamond ruff for the setting trick, with another heart ruff by East to come, when all the other galoots were bidding and making slam on this hand.

Thanks for correcting this Friday the 13th hand, set up intentionally with this purposeful error, in the hopes of

testing the readers interest.

If you believe the last sentence there is a beautiful bridge I’d like to sell you and it crosses the river Thames which flows into the North sea which, in turn, connects it to bridge.

gabriel chagasMarch 27th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Hi Bobby,

This is Gabriel Chagas, your old mate from the other down under.

It’s wonderful to see you active!

On hand one I would ruff small, play AK of diamonds, play AK and J of hearts and ruff a heart with the spade 9 in case of need. I would also go down with hearts 5 one but would always make the hand with a doubleton spade queen.

Bobby WolffMarch 27th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Hi Gabe,

If I could rent a blogger, you would be the one. No offense, everyone else, but Gabe’s brilliance I know, most of the rest I don’t.

All we now need is a bridge mathematician (BM) to give us the percentage answer. The difference between a BM and a normal one is that a BM could factor in whether with certain distributions the defense would have entered the bidding and tipped their mitt. BTW, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful when I used those initials, which sometimes refers to something else.

Gabe, when I came on the scene in 1970 you were already well on your way to becoming the brightest star on the planet, and now when I seem to be exiting, you are like a fine wine and are still performing among the best. Unfortunately or fortunately that might say it right-on about you, compared to the rest of us.

Perhaps you either met Ponce de Leon or found your own fountain of youth.