Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 13, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead:5

“Great men are they who see … that thoughts rule the world.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today’s deal is a good example of how the Rule of Eleven (which has survived from the days of whist) can be used to help find the winning play.


Consider the auction briefly before looking at the play. North’s sequence, even by a passed hand, was forcing, showing at least five clubs and a four-card major. South had the option to continue by bidding three diamonds, showing values and suggesting a possible weakness in one major, but that might have been too subtle.


Against South’s three no-trump, West led the heart five. East won with the ace and returned the jack, and declarer had to decide whether to cover. The possibility that East held the king can be ruled out, so his only relevant original holdings are A-J doubleton (when it gains to duck) and A-J-9 (when it gains to cover).


The Rule of Eleven tells us that there are six (11 minus 5) cards in the North, East and South hands that are higher than the five, but South can see only five of them (the 10, seven, ace, jack and queen), so East must have one more. Therefore, he cannot have started with A-J alone, so it can never gain to play low on the heart jack.


Incidentally, when South regains the lead, he should start clubs by cashing dummy’s king. If West has five hearts, he is more likely to have a club void than East.

ANSWER: In situations of this sort, you can be sure your partner has stretched to enter the auction with what you know must be limited values. So you should assume that he did so because he wants his suit led. Therefore, lead a diamond (the jack, of course) and not a club.


South Holds:

J 7 6
Q 4 3
J 8
K 10 7 5 4


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