Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: All

9 8 5 4
K 7
J 10 9
A 8 4 3
West East
Q 6 3 A K 10 2
J 9 6 3 2 Q 10 8 4
K 8 4 7 6
J 5 10 7 2
J 7
A 5
A Q 5 3 2
K Q 9 6


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
3NT All Pass    

Opening Lead:3

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”

— Logan Pearsall Smith

One popular defensive signal these days is the Smith Echo. This applies only in no-trump contracts and the idea is that an echo — i.e. a high-low signal — on the first suit that declarer plays indicates a liking for the opening lead (assuming that a count signal is irrelevant to your partner).

Against South’s three no-trump you lead your fourth-highest heart — the three. Declarer plays the king from the dummy, and partner encourages with the 10. You let the diamond jack hold and take the diamond 10 with your king, partner contributing the six followed by the seven.

So partner, who clearly started with a doubleton diamond, has played his cards upwards, suggesting you switch. If he held a club honor, he would surely have suggested that you continue with hearts (since he can see that the defenders will have time to set up and enjoy the hearts), so you should switch to a spade; but which?

If partner does not have a club honor, then declarer has 10 tricks when he regains the lead (two hearts, four diamonds and four clubs), so your side must take four spade tricks immediately. Therefore partner’s spades need to be at least as good as A-K-10-x.

If so, you can make life easy for him by switching to the spade queen. If you switch to a low one he may cash his ace-king, playing declarer for queen-doubleton of spades and hoping you have a club stopper (or worse yet, switch back to hearts on winning the spade).

ANSWER: Facing a minimum hand with five hearts and four diamonds, you should pass. This is not so much because diamonds will always play better, but because if you correct two diamonds to two hearts, you suggest you hold 9-10 points and three hearts (too good for a simple raise, but not enough for a cue-bid to suggest a limit raise). Let sleeping dogs lie and keep partner low.


South Holds:

9 8 5 4
K 7
J 10 9
A 8 4 3


South West North East
    1 1
Dbl. 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bobby WolffMay 13th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Oh, this hurts!

By making it easy for partner, what if he held AJ1072 in spades and declarer the singleton K–on this bidding a not so unlikely holding?

If I wasn’t the person, I’d suggest firing the proof reader. Since I am, I’ll forgive myself and think my character has improved. As self-punishment, in the local duplicate, I promise to not yell at Judy for her next mistake.

Michael BeyroutiMay 18th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

So? Are you suggesting that West should switch to a low spade?