Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 20, 2009

Dealer: West

Vul: E/W

A 10 5 3
K J 6 2
7 3 2
West East
Q 8 4 2 K
J 8 2 A 10 9 5 4
10 5 3 9 8 7
A J 10 Q 6 5 4
J 9 7 6
7 6 3
A Q 4
K 9 8
West North East South
Pass 1 Pass 1
Pass 2 All Pass

Opening Lead: 2

“Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.”

— Sir Arthur Helps

The Spring Nationals at Detroit last year was open to all players. If and when you get eliminated, you can play in regional events, but the knockouts, which are bracketed so that you meet a team with an equivalent number of masterpoints, might be even more challenging.

In the top bracket of the knockouts, you can expect to see more than a few world champions competing, but not necessarily in their regular partnerships.

In the Monday knockouts, Drew Cannell, playing with Carol Kasle, defended well. He imagined a hand that his partner might hold that would set the opponents, then proceeded on that basis.

As East, defending two spades, he won the opening heart lead with the ace and decided a club shift was necessary. It looks natural to shift to a low club, but that might not have been sufficient as the cards lie.

Going for the jackpot, Cannell played the club queen, hoping to find today’s exact layout, and was rewarded. The defenders cashed three clubs, then went back to hearts. When declarer crossed back to his hand with a diamond to play a spade to dummy’s 10, Cannell won and played another heart, forcing dummy to ruff and giving the defense their second trump trick for down one.

ANSWER: Were you tempted to bid two spades? Bear in mind that your first call was not exactly an underbid — you do not have a robust opening bid. Once you have shown the unbid suits and values, you must rely on partner to compete to the appropriate level. To bid again now would require your complete lack of faith in partner’s short-term memory.


South Holds:

A 10 5 3
K J 6 2
7 3 2
West North East South
1 Pass 1 Dbl.
Pass 1 2 ?

If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, feel free to leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2009.


bruce karlsonApril 3rd, 2009 at 1:27 pm


Siting East, and given that I may have no more entries, I might well find the same defense on my first return. When back in with the trump king, however, I would freeze in fear that my required heart return would give a sluff/ruff. How can Cannell know that partner led 3rd from the jack, and not 4th best??

bobbywolffApril 3rd, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Hi Bruce,

On this particular hand, even if partner had 4 hearts to the jack, a likely holding, why did she get out with the 8 of hearts instead of her smaller one. However, that is a red herring since, once declarer comes back to his hand with the ace of diamonds, there are no more possible tricks (other than trumps) for the defense so East should concentrate on helping his partner develop a 2d trump trick if he can. Since declarer mistakenly led a trump to the 10 instead of either the 9 or jack from his hand West already had her 2d trump trick without partner’s help, but East did not know what the spot cards were so he certainly made the right play.

Later, I am sure I will get into what is involved with high-level defense as played by superior partnerships and discuss constantly reconstructing both unseen hands (in defensive situations that refers to partner’s and declarer’s hands). Those hands, in order to develop the accuracy needed for excellent defense, are determined by the opening lead, the bidding, and most importantly how the declarer is going about playing the hand.

Watch the skies for more on this later.

Good luck!

bruce karlsonApril 4th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Thank you again for your patient responses. They are much appreciated.

I would like to buy a copy of “The Lone Wolff” and will get same via Amazon or ebay. I have, to date, read almost nothing about the highest levels of this game except that which relates to bidding or play of the hand.

Judy WolffApril 4th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Bruce: You might enjoy the reviews on Bobby’s book at his website: However, before reading The Lone Wolff, I suggest you take a tranquilizer first!

bruce karlsonApril 5th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

The “intro” of the book suggests that the game is not all sweetness, ethics, and consideration. I shall try it absent drugs. Wish me luck!!!!

Anyway, thank you for the warning…