Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


South West North East
    Pass Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:K

“Be prepared, be sharp, be careful, and use the King’s English well. And you can forget all the [other rules] unless you remember one more: Get paid.”

— Robert N.C. Nix

Bidding the South hand scientifically would be beyond most of us. In third seat, however, tactical considerations are paramount. The issue is not just what is your side’s best contract, but where the opponents might play if you gave them a chance to explore. To prevent them from finding their best fit, the pre-emptive opening gives you two ways to win. Four spades might be your best spot, and it might make your opponents’ lives hard.


When West leads two top hearts, South trumps the second and can see that he must establish his diamond suit without losing control of the trump suit. Although he started life with all the high trumps, he does run the risk of losing the lead twice more and then being forced if he is not careful.


Therefore, after cashing the diamond ace, he must overtake dummy’s spade queen and draw three rounds of trump — promoting a trump for West, but saving a vital tempo. Now declarer drives out the diamond king and is sure of a re-entry to his hand to cash his remaining diamonds.


If declarer cashes the spade queen and gets back to his hand by trumping a heart or club from dummy, he loses control of the hand and can be set so long as the defenders lead hearts or clubs at every opportunity.


Any declarer who cashed the ace, king and jack of spades and discarded dummy’s diamond ace had the right idea, but unfortunately this line fails when diamonds divide 5-2.

ANSWER: Your partner has suggested extra shape but not necessarily extras in high cards. In fact, he is quite likely to have a minimum. Your first action guaranteed that you had at least a nine-count. In context you have a minimum, so you have no need to bid more than two spades now. If partner passes, you will be quite high enough!


South Holds:

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


South West North East

Rdbl. 1 1 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