Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead:9

“Alas! Our pleasant moments fly

On rapid wings away,

While those recorded with a sigh,

Mock us by long delay.”

— Edward Coate Pinkney

Congratulations to the current world champion Nickell team. In their period of dominance in bridge at the start of the last decade, Meckstroth-Rodwell and Hamman-Soloway may have grabbed the headlines, but Nick Nickell, the captain, and Dick Freeman played their part too.


The late Dick Freeman had been a quiz kid on the radio and was a former tournament director known to be the fastest scorer in the world! Here he is, producing a nice line for his three-no-trump contract.


How likely is it that a competent defense will beat three no-trump by South, if they find the passive club lead? The point is that so long as East wins the second club and shifts to a spade, the defenders should find a way to cash their four spade tricks. Declarer will put up the king on the first round, and then West can underlead his queen, or East can unblock his jack under the queen.


It did not happen like that at the table. After a strong no-trump and a Stayman sequence, West led the club nine, which was either top of a sequence denying a higher honor, or from a 10-nine holding with a higher honor. East put up the club queen, and Freeman ducked impassively! He knew that the lead was top of nothing, but East did not. That player thought the layout was consistent with West’s holding A-10-9, so he continued with the king, and Freeman now had 11 tricks rather than eight.

ANSWER: Your hand seems to me too good to pass three no-trump despite the lack of an obvious fit. A simple raise to four no-trump should be quantitative (bid on if you have maximum, partner) since no suit has been set as trumps. The general rule is that if the last call was in no-trump, a raise to four no-trump is invitational, not Blackwood.


South Holds:

7 4 3 2
A K J 4 2
6 4 2


South West North East
    2 2
3 Pass 3 NT 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


Rick WilliamsFebruary 19th, 2010 at 8:21 am

How does Freeman win 11 tricks? Shouldn’t it be 10?

Bobby WolffFebruary 19th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Hi Rick,

Yes, you are correct that Freeman only had ten tricks (2 hearts, 5 diamonds and 3 clubs), but perhaps Dick after first taking his 3 club tricks and then 5 diamonds in the dummy came down to 3 spades in the dummy and the Jack of hearts and after throwing two hearts from his hand on the two good diamonds in dummy guessed correctly that West had kept only the ace of spades to go with this Qxx in hearts. He then read the cards, as great players usually do, and led a spade to his ten downing the ace and therefore capturing the final three 3 tricks.

Many years ago, a serious mentor of mine, Oswald Jacoby, once informed me that one of those days he was going to write a book dedicated only to discarding by a defender with lesser hands and what to look for (it chiefly involves counting declarer’s hand). Although West did have some values, after his partner East let him down by returning a club at trick 2, he lost interest in the hand and discarded poorly. It happens frequently, particularly among players without the pride and self-confidence which comes from playing better, and away went the extra overtrick. BTW, Ozzie never did write that book, which, no doubt would have helped the many serious students of the game, especially while they were climbing the ladder of improvement.

Thanks for observing and writing.

Rick WilliamsFebruary 20th, 2010 at 2:51 am

Wow, thank you Mr. Wolff for the enlightening reply.

You made my day!