Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead:2

“An act of God was defined as something which no reasonable man could have expected.”

— Sir Alan P. Herbert

For today’s defensive problem, sit West and look only at your hand and dummy’s. You are playing against competent opponents.

Against South’s three no-trump you lead the heart two. Declarer plays the king from dummy and your partner wins with the ace. He then returns the heart 10, covered by declarer’s jack and you win with the queen. What now?

The key to this problem lies in declarer’s play. What card would you usually play from dummy when you had king-third in dummy and a doubleton or tripleton heart jack in hand (with or without the heart nine)? Surely it would be normal to guarantee a trick in the suit by playing low from the dummy, wouldn’t it? So when declarer goes in with dummy’s king, it looks like a desperate attempt to gain the lead. He must have a pronounced weakness in another suit, and that can only be in spades. You should switch to the spade ace and, after an encouraging card from partner, continue with the queen.

One final thought: Was declarer right to play dummy’s king at trick one? It could have been right if you had underled the heart ace. But if he had played low, your partner might have put in the 10, or (on a different day) have won his queen and simply continued the suit. There would have been no reason for him to suspect the urgency of a spade switch. As it was, declarer’s strange play alerted you to the winning defense.

ANSWER: Horrible as it is to make a negative double without four hearts, your hand is simply too good to pass, and raising clubs on three does not feel right. By contrast, it would be clear-cut to raise clubs if the diamond two were in clubs. Just because partner MIGHT have three clubs does not mean he does!


South Holds:

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


South West North East
    1 1


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