Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: None

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


South West North East
    1 Pass
2* Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
3 NT All Pass    

Opening Lead:Q

“I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army.”

— Abraham Lincoln

Most of the deals that run in this column are from teams play. Today’s deal, from a pairs game, emphasizes the difference in strategy between the two games. Put yourself in East’s chair to see if you can duplicate his thinking.


Against three no-trump West leads the club queen to declarer’s king. At trick two, declarer leads a diamond to dummy’s king, West playing the diamond four and East winning with the ace. What do you lead at trick three?


If you make the routine play of a club continuation, declarer will take 12 tricks without breathing hard. If you play back a heart, you hold declarer to 11 tricks. That may feel like a victory — but bear in mind that if declarer did not have the spade queen, he was going to make only 10 tricks had you persisted in clubs.


How do you know what to do? You don’t! But you don’t have to guess — just play low on the diamond king. When declarer returns to hand with the spade queen, West follows low and now you know that declarer will have a large number of tricks to cash when he regains the lead. Therefore, you know to switch to a heart (you can count 12 tricks for declarer if you don’t) after winning the diamond ace.


The point is that even if the clubs had been running for the defense, with partner holding the club ace-queen, your duck of the diamond king will not give declarer his ninth trick.

ANSWER: Once in a while I mount my hobbyhorse in this feature and recommend a convention. A defense to one no-trump such as Landy, where two clubs would show both majors, is a good idea. It is far better to be able to show the majors than to pass, or have to bid two spades and cross your fingers. Ideally you would have equal length or longer hearts, I admit; but it is still better to show both suits than just one.


South Holds:

A K 8 4 2
Q 10 7 2
8 4 2


South West North East
      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


David WarheitDecember 16th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

If you switch the aces of clubs and hearts, South has three possible strategies to make his contract: 1) hope that spades are 3-3; 2) hope that clubs are 4-4; or 3) hope that when he leads a diamond at trick 2, the opponents duck, in which case he now only needs either spades to be 3-3 or the heart jack to drop. It seems to me that the combination of 2 & 3 is better than spades being 3-3, meaning that east’s best strategy would be to win the ace of diamonds at trick 2 & play on clubs, since he knows that spades do run and that clubs are not 4-4. What do you think?

Bobby WolffDecember 19th, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Hi David,

Methinks there is much reason in what you say, but first let us consider the few important elements:

1. South, on this hand, was careful to win the club with the King, not the ace, which if mistakenly won with the ace, would give this show away to the defense.

2. If South now had the ace king of hearts he would only need the spades to be 3-3 since 5 spades and 3 hearts plus his club trick would win fair maiden without having to risk going for the diamond. However, if South could steal the diamond and have the jack of hearts drop he would not need 5 spade tricks, but instead only need the 3 he already has.

3. Might partner having 5 clubs or possibly only 4 to the ace, queen, jack have opted for a club opening lead to declarer’s known king (on the bidding), but instead have hoped to find partner with an entry and (depending on how many clubs declarer has), the club ten?

4. At least to me, here is an example of very high-level judgment, the ability to weigh the above factors, both from a defensive view (East) and from a declarer’s perspective (South).

5. The above judgment, from East’s standpoint may possibly be determined by South’s tempo in the bidding and whether East thought that South was contemplating a slam (which he was) or whether he, with only a jack high diamond suit and the lonely king of clubs doubleton or tripleton, would boldly lead out a risky diamond in the hopes of embarrassing his opponents into a grievous error.

6. Such are the mental wars between bridge adversaries. Are we playing a great game, or what????

Thanks for writing.