Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 25, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: N/S

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


South West North East
    2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
3 NT Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead:Q

“We can’t afford the wrath of Heaven. We survived a deluge by the skin of our teeth, but an economic crisis would be disastrous.”

— Friedrich Durrenmatt

Just because your main chance of success in a contract fails to materialize, there is no excuse for failing to keep your head and looking for other possibilities.


Cover up the East-West hands and plan the play in six spades on the lead of the club queen, won by the king.


Superficially, it looks as if the contract depends on the play of the spade suit. So after winning the club king, you cash the ace and king of spades. This is the correct play in the suit, although the calculations are so close that if you know East has a long suit, the second-round finesse becomes the percentage play.


Much to your annoyance, East shows out on the second round and the slam seems doomed. However, your remaining chance is that West began life with ether a singleton or a doubleton heart, not that unlikely a shot. Take your diamonds, discarding a club from the dummy, and then cash your clubs and the heart ace. Finally, exit with a trump. West can win his queen, but has to give you a ruff and discard. You ruff in the dummy, discarding your heart loser from hand. Six spades bid and made.


If declarer had reason to suppose that East had the heart shortage, he could have won the lead in the dummy, drawn one round of trumps, cashed his minor-suit winners (again discarding a club from dummy), played a heart to his king, and run the spade jack. If East had won the spade queen but had had no hearts to play, then declarer would have again succeeded.

ANSWER: With no club stop, it looks dangerous to bid three no-trump here, but when the opponents have told you what the danger suit is, you should bid no-trump if you have that suit stopped, and not worry about an unbid suit. While five diamonds might be better if partner is very short in clubs, this auction does not suggest that. So bid three no-trump now, and dare them to lead clubs.


South Holds:

J 10 4 3 2
K 9 6
K Q 2
9 3


South West North East
  1 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 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


David WarheitOctober 10th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

The suggested line works, but only because West has a singleton heart. He is much more likely to hold a doubleton, in which case you must cash both heart winners before endplaying West.

Bobby WolffOctober 10th, 2009 at 3:54 pm


Of course, you are right. In the text it mentions that line works if West started with a singleton or doubleton heart, but in describing the play only cashing the heart ace, instead of both the ace and king, was mentioned.

Mea culpa. Sorry and a toast to your eagle eye.