Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 6 NT All Pass

Opening Lead:9

“Ignorance itself is without a doubt a sin for those who do not wish to understand; for those who, however, cannot understand, it is the punishment of sin.”

— St. Augustine

When this hand arose in a recent Cavendish pairs, quite a few of the world’s best players lost themselves some money by their ignorance of a key suit-combination.


If you are going to play slam, six clubs might be best here, but six no-trump looks normal enough. How should you play the spades? It looks natural to lead out the ace and follow up with the 10. When East plays low, you should rise with the queen. That picks up the doubleton jack offside. However, when the suit is 3-3, it is a blind guess whether to play low or to rise with the queen against competent opponents. Bear in mind that if West started life with the doubleton king, there is no winning option. You have to lose two tricks, whatever you do next.


So far so good, and most people’s analysis would stop there. But actually the best play in the suit does not start with cashing the ace, but with running the queen! If the suit is 3-3, we know that it is a complete guess as to how to play the suit. If the suit is 4-2, you can pick up three of the four honor-doubletons by leading the queen. No other play caters to that.


It is only fitting that Fred Gitelman, author of BridgeMaster, which features this precise combination in its training section, was one of the declarers in six no-trump. He made the right play and was rewarded when the cards cooperated.

ANSWER: Unless your partner has taken leave of his senses, he has at least 5-5 in the minors (probably more shape, because a call of one no-trump by a passed hand would show that pattern). Since the opponents must be cold for at least game in one of the majors, take their bidding space away by jumping to five diamonds. You may not make it, but you won’t make your opponents’ life easy either.


South Holds:

K 4 3
Q J 6
Q 9 8 7 6
9 2


South West North East
    Pass 1
Pass 1 2 NT 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