Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 12, 2009

Dealer: East

Vul: None

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


South West North East
Pass 2 3♠* Dbl.
3 NT All Pass    
*Suggesting a solid suit somewhere, looking for a spade stop for 3NT

Opening Lead:10

“You, for example, clever to a fault,…

Read somewhat seldomer, think perhaps even less.”

— Robert Browning

Today’s deal from the 2008 open trials is a complicated one. Look at the play in three no-trump, and note in passing that four hearts may need the hearts to split, while the no-trump game has extra chances.


Declarer was Babu Koneru, whose RHO doubled the three-spade cue-bid. This gave Koneru a good clue that the spade ace was on his right.


The opening lead was the spade 10, promising the nine and a higher honor. East knew declarer could not run the hearts. To keep communications open in spades, he craftily inserted the jack at the first trick, breaking one of the cardinal rules about finessing against partner. His plan was to get the lead in hearts, play spade ace, and lead another spade to his partner. But Koneru was too clever for him: he ducked the first trick, playing for this precise lie of the cards.


The defenders might still have prevailed if they had seen all four hands. They needed to shift to diamonds early, so that West could regain the lead for a club play. That way, the defenders take one trick in each suit and two in spades. But after East continued the attack on spades at the second trick, declarer could take one spade trick, six hearts and the two minor-suit aces for the contract.


Whether or not you agree with declarer’s play, you must congratulate East and South on their play to the first trick.

ANSWER: This sequence does not suggest a weak hand with only three clubs, correcting to a better partscore. It suggests a strong hand, probably with 1-4-3-5 pattern, looking for game. Since clubs offer the best trump fit and you have a decent hand, bid four clubs to invite game.


South Holds:

K 7 4
J 10 9 8 7
Q J 6 4


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


ArikJune 30th, 2009 at 9:13 am

I believe once S ducked the first S he can always make 3NT.

If E shifts to D at trick 2 declarer will simply play a second D back to W.

What is W to do now?

If he plays a C declarer ducks it and comes to 9 tricks by means of 4D+3H+2C, the defense can come to 4 tricks only: 2S+1D+1C

If W shifts back to S declarer sheds a C from dummy and E best defense is to win the SA and play a passive H – but declarer can counter that by playing 3 more rounds of Hearts, endplaying E who is forced to play a C away from the K or give S immediate entry by playing a S or a D. All the defense can get are 2S+1H+1D.

If W plays a H at trick 4 declarer plays 4 rounds of H to reach a similar ending to the one reached when W plays a S back.

If W plays a D declarer can either finesse in C or play 4 rounds of Hearts.

Finally, if W ducks at trick 3 declarer will play on Hearts making 9 tricks by means of 6H+2D+1C

bobbywolffJuly 1st, 2009 at 10:18 am

Hi Arik,

“Which arrow flies forever? The arrow that has hit its mark”, Vladimir Nabokov.

Vladimir was talking about you when he made that wonderful quote. Your analysis is complete, and what is more, it is accurate. Thanks for taking the time to make your comment. With your keen and disciplined bridge mind you will do nothing but improve. Don’t waste it on lesser things, but instead feed your bridge fascination and contribute to our wonderful pastime.

Thanks for writing!

Bobby Wolff