Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dealer: West

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead:8

“Although I enter not,

Yet round about the spot

Ofttimes I hover.”

— William Makepeace Thackeray

Ely Culbertson may not have been credited sufficiently for his skills as a card-player, as opposed to self-publicist.


He supposedly sat West, defending to four hearts in this deal after South’s strong jump overcall. Culbertson led the club eight taken by dummy’s ace. Declarer played a low diamond from dummy, his king scoring the trick. After drawing trumps, South led the spade 10. West rose with the king to play a second club, ruffed by South. Next came the spade seven.


The critical idea behind the deal was that if West had played low, dummy’s eight would have forced East’s ace. Now declarer could get to dummy to lead a second diamond toward his queen for the 10th trick.


Accordingly, on this layout West has to play to block the North-South spades. When declarer plays a second round of spades, West’s action depends on the spot card played. If it is the seven, he must insert the jack, as indeed Culbertson did at the table. East took dummy’s queen with his ace, and now declarer was locked in hand after ruffing the club return and had to surrender two diamonds. If South had advanced the spade nine, Culbertson would have had to follow with a low card, and so would East — not an easy play to find.


(After all, if declarer had a small diamond instead of the spade seven, ducking the second spade would have let through the contract.)

ANSWER: Your partner’s cuebid shows a very good hand, and in context you are not completely broke — far too good to sign off in three clubs. My instincts would be to temporize with two spades, suggesting this sort of spade holding. With four spades, you might well have bid the suit at your first turn.


South Holds:

Q 8 5
7 4
10 6 3
A 6 5 4 2


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 2 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