Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dealer: East

Vul: All

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


South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 1
1 Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:K

“Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.”

— Charles Dickens

In a recent European Championship, one of the pre-tournament favorites was taking on a less fancied team. The favorites had an accident here, selling out to two clubs by West and conceding eight tricks. This was hardly a triumph, with a spade partscore, and possibly a game, on for North-South.


Indeed, in the other room South became declarer in four spades on the auction shown. West cashed two clubs and switched to a heart. Declarer should now win the heart, ruff a heart, draw three rounds of trump via the finesse, and ruff another heart. However, declarer took his eye off the ball and played a diamond instead of a heart off the dummy at trick four. East won his ace and found the bright defense of playing a third round of clubs to give a ruff and discard. This left declarer with no winning play. He could ruff in dummy, ruff a heart, and then take a spade finesse, but if he failed to draw all the trumps, he would suffer an overruff, while if he did draw trumps, he would have no entry to the established hearts. So the board produced no swing.


Incidentally, best defense against four spades is to take the three minor-suit winners and then give a ruff and discard. Declarer must discard a heart from hand while he ruffs in the dummy. Now he can ruff hearts twice in hand without suffering an overruff, while drawing three rounds of trump ending in dummy.

ANSWER: This is an invitational sequence, and your extra shape and attractive honor-structure give you enough reason to bid on. The choice is to bid three no-trump (which seems unduly trusting), to commit unilaterally to four hearts, or to show your shape with a three-spade bid and let partner decide. I’d go for the third option, even though it reveals your hand-type to the opponents.


South Holds:

A Q 8 6
A K 9 8 7 2
10 6


South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 Pass 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


John DumasNovember 4th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

This is regarding the Kark Menninger hand played (and set) in 3NT. [THE OREGONIAN, Nov 4] The hand makes 5 clubs cold in either seat with any lead, provided that North does not go up with the king on a low spade lead by East.

The key is to not run any heart or club finesses and play as follows: once on lead, cash the ace of clubs then run diamonds pitching the three losing hearts; then play the club queen to West’s king, take any return and pull trump. If the spade ace has not been played, lead the jack from North and cover only if East plays the queen. Defenders get the club king and spade ace.

Bobby WolffNovember 4th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Hi John,

The Oregonian’s Nov 4th hand will not appear on the Internet until November 18th, making our discussion either difficult or impossible for those reading the current Internet AOB’s column.

However, the above does not take away your brilliant analysis of declaring a 5 club contract. Your individual declarer plays were picture perfect. At the table, those exact plays may be hard to find and might suggest that, if the declarer did wend his way through the hand with your suggested sequence, he either had devine providence or was looking at the 52 cards exposed as he played the hand. I’ll leave it up to you which is more likely.

Meanwhile thanks for your comment and your superhuman effort, however when the day comes and that line of play is found, bridge, as we know it, will be threatened with extinction. Better to return to the real world where bridge is still a game of percentages and winning and losing rather than one of double dummy and the advance knowledge of the lie of the opponent’s cards.