Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dealer: West

Vul: N/S

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


South West North East
  1 Dbl. 2
3 4 5 All Pass

Opening Lead:K

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience!”

— George Bernard Shaw

Today’s deal was sent in anonymously, thus sparing the feelings of the guilty. It is one of my favorites this year, even though declarer, who was in five clubs, totally missed the point. Try testing yourself to see if you can do better.


Everybody contributed quite actively to the auction except South, who might have been surprised to hold such a good hand on this bidding. Perhaps that explains why she rather tamely won the heart opening lead, drew trumps, led a diamond to the king, and quietly lost three tricks in the red suits.


If you believe the opponents, the chance of the diamond finesse working is slim to zero — and slim has just left the building. Instead you need to make use of your powerful spades, not to win tricks but to endplay West. Win the spade lead in hand and ruff a spade high in dummy, accepting the risk of the 3-0 trump break. Then cash the club ace-king, take the heart ace, cross to the heart king, and lead your third spade, pitching a heart from dummy.


West has to win this trick and can either concede a ruff-sluff, when you will pitch a diamond from hand, or lead ace and a diamond, in which case you have the rest.


Note: you need to ruff the spade before drawing trumps. If you win the spade lead, then cash the club ace-king and play the heart ace-king, you can then ruff a spade, but can’t exit from dummy conveniently.

ANSWER: Before you bid, remember that a jump to three clubs here would be shapely and pre-emptive. But in any event you do not want to make a limit raise with this hand. Start by doubling one no-trump, since you will be happy to defend that contract if allowed to. Should the opponents run, you would plan to compete to three clubs.


South Holds:

A 4 2
K 5 2
K 6
10 7 5 4 2


South West North East
    1 1 NT


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


Howard Bigot JohnsonNovember 17th, 2009 at 10:21 am

Personally, doubling will only let East off the hook, as he has now a chance to find a fit suit with his partner who is obviously pointless. MOreover, your partner will have some useful values outside clubs, which will ensure at least that there is one running side suit somewhere. I suspect East will have a club stop to warrant his INT overcall, but your Kings are certainly well placed. Three no trumps could be risky, but with a blind West on lead, it is worth a punt.

PS. Please have a look at my latest post on because I’m very interested to know whether you have come across hands say where the same high level contract can be bid and made by both pairs.

Paul BetheNovember 19th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

This is such an elegant hand. What is so great about it, is that it is very reasonable to expect West to have 7+ spades, and east to have 5+ hearts, thanks to the informative auction.

So, correctly playing this hand is not limited to a select class of experts, but rather to any intermediate/advanced player who can count to 13.

Bobby WolffNovember 19th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Hi Paul,

It is really nice to hear from you.

Although years are passing, you, at least to me, will always be thought of as representing the bridge youth of today. That, together with your emotion and enthusiasm for bridge is a more welcome sight to me than anyone can imagine.

Yes, it is a great hand and you are right on target when you suggest the play of this hand, with the transparent bidding to help, should be relatively “duck soup” “for any intermediate/advanced player who can count to 13”.

Perhaps the only slippery banana peel to overcome is for aspiring players, even bright beginners, to be taught to count the opponent’s hands based, of course, on the bidding and sometimes with what is discovered in the play up to the crucial point.

Having been taught that way, and having two VERY high-level bridge playing parents for foundation, sets you apart from some other less fortunate bridge enthusiasts.

Everyone who knows you is proud of who you are and what you represent.

Thanks for writing!

Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2009 at 11:45 am

Hi Howard,

Yes, I have probably run across “trick” hands which, determining who is on lead, will allow some major “same contracts”, even 7NT, either way to make, to be determined, by who is on lead. For example, if North held the seven top spades and the six top hearts, and as dealer, he might need to open the bidding 7NT, assuming East would hold the six lowest spades and the seven lowest hearts, because if he didn’t and opened something less, it would be East who would open 7NT, catching South with the seven lowest diamonds and the six lowest clubs. leaving his partner, West, with the six highest diamonds and the seven highest clubs.

While this hand has reportedly never come up, and if so, it might even be considered doubtful that neither North nor East would “rush” to 7NT. Obviously also, if either did, there might even be one or two kibitzers who would shout from the “highest rooftops” that everything was above board and therefore coincidental that either North and especially East were not only well within their rights to do so, but no one should question their “honesty”.

As the bard might say, assuming he played bridge as well as he wrote, “On such a full sea are we now afloat and we must take the current when it serves or lose our fortunes”.

Keep going with your wonderful newsletter and personality.

Getting back to bridge and from South’s vantage point, I do not think he should punt 3NT since it is dollars to doughnuts that East has more than one club stop since he cannot have a solid suit anywhere and it is likely that the disadvantageous club position will “sink” NS’s being able to outscore their opponents, at least 9 to 4.