Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead:5

“Oh, tempt me not! I love too well this snare

Of silken cords.”

— Laurence Housman

When West leads the spade five against three no-trump, declarer must plan to knock out both red aces. (It should also be clear that East does not have both aces, by virtue of his failure to open the bidding).


At first glance, it seems that South must guess which ace East holds, and to isolate the spades, attack that suit first. But in fact that may not be necessary if East falls for the bait and covers North’s queen with his king. The safe way home now is to duck this trick. If East continues spades, declarer wins in hand and can attack either red suit, as spades are not established, and even if West gains the lead with his ace, he will have no spade left to play to his partner.


Note though, that East has a counter. By withholding the spade king at trick one, he leaves declarer on a straight guess as to which red suit to play on for his contract. South fails if he attacks hearts before diamonds, as West has a second spade to play through to his partner, and East will get in with the diamond ace to run his spades.


If South plays low from dummy at trick one, would East be up to playing the nine rather than the jack? I do not know. But bear in mind that it might even be necessary to cover if declarer had a four-card spade suit, holding South to two tricks.

ANSWER: Bidding a hand like this is largely a generational issue. Those over 40 will double, convinced that an overcall could never describe a hand this strong. Those under 40 will be happy to overcall one heart here, believing that as the auction advances, they can come in again to show extras. They worry that if they start by doubling, pre-empting by the opponents will make it hard to bid the hand at a safe level.


South Holds:

Q 8 7
K Q J 9 5
Q J 3


South West North East


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