Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dealer: North

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead:6

“When there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph.”

— Pierre Corneilless

Applying the Rule of 11 brought defensive success to Bruce Ferguson, East, in this deal from a long-ago North American Nationals in Chicago. But it also needed the cooperation of Brenda Keller, his partner, to defeat the game.


The Rule of 11 states: Subtract the value of the card led from 11 to give the number of higher cards not held by the opening leader. Seeing four hearts higher than the six, Ferguson calculated that South held just one card higher than the six. But he also knew that this rule could be applied by declarer. If Ferguson followed with his three, then, when he gained the lead to play the heart jack, South could cover that card with the king, which would result in the hearts being blocked. Accordingly, Ferguson unblocked the heart jack under dummy’s queen.


South continued with the spade king, and now Keller did her part by getting rid of her queen. If South held the spade jack, she knew her queen would drop, but if partner held that card, she needed to clear her queen out of harm’s way so that East would be able to win the third round of spades and play hearts through.


This precaution turned out to be necessary, as now declarer could not set up either spades or diamonds without letting East on lead to take his side’s heart tricks and defeat the contract.

ANSWER: A coward would say, “I have only eight points” and bid three hearts. The average player correctly commits to game because of his fit for diamonds, knowing partner has length in that suit and needs help. The expert bids four diamonds — just in case partner was interested in slam and has four diamonds. That way he might get to the best slam — six diamonds — not six hearts.


South Holds:

10 6 2
K 5 4
A 9 7 4 3
J 7


South West North East
    1 Pass
2 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


ross taylorJanuary 9th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

A classic

David WarheitJanuary 10th, 2010 at 12:02 am

The play in 4 spades is even more fun. East leads the jack of hearts which rides to the queen. North now leads a diamond and ducks it to west (it doesn’t help the defense for East to split his honors). West cannot lead hearts, so he exits with something else. North now cashes 2 rounds of trumps, the ace of diamonds and 3 rounds of clubs, discarding a heart from dummy. He now leads a heart; west wins but is endplayed, forced to give declarer a ruff-sluff.

Bobby WolffJanuary 10th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Hi Ross and David,

Ross, thanks for the labeling. Your comments, as always, tend to be a poster child for the glories of bridge.

David, you too, with your superior analysis and your creative bridge mind, continue to make all enthusiasts aware of how beautiful our game really is and just as important, how far all of us could go to get full enjoyment out of high-level bridge playing. One doesn’t have to have your analytical talents to appreciate those like you, who do.

Let me give a heartfelt appreciation to both of you for your contributions. The world-wide bridge world owes you a major vote of thank you for continuing to give your time and effort.