Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 5, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead:5

“Some people are so fond of ill luck that they run halfway to meet it.”

— Douglas Jerrold

Today’s deal shows Geir Helgemo declaring a delicate three no-trump in a teams contest. The diamond five was led, and dummy’s diamond 10 took the first trick. Try to play it yourself before looking at the East-West cards.


It is important to remember that at teams or at rubber bridge, making the contract is paramount. At pairs, one should maybe consider trying for overtricks — but not today.


The point is that if clubs break in unfriendly fashion, the contract might be at risk. Imagine that after dummy’s diamond 10 holds, you cash the two top clubs. You will be in trouble if the queen does not fall, since although a third round of clubs sets up the suit, the opponents may find the killing switch to a heart. Declarer has only eight tricks, and communication between the North and South hands is terrible. Declarer will need to guess the position very well to come home now. But can you see a way to bring home nine tricks without guessing, or relying on good luck?


At the table the game contract was wrapped up in no time at all. At trick two Helgemo simply called for the club jack from dummy! Now the defenders could do whatever they wanted, but they could not find any way to give declarer a problem. He had created entries back to his own hand to drive out the diamond ace and collect another diamond trick, his ninth.

ANSWER: Your partner has invited game, and you have more than enough to accept, but it is not clear which game is best. (I’d be a little worried about a spade lead against no-trump). Cue-bid three clubs and settle for the heart game unless partner bids three no-trump or three spades to suggest values there.


South Holds:

J 4
K 8 7
K Q 9 7 6
10 7 5


South West North East
  1 1 Pass
2 Pass 2 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


Ross TaylorFebruary 19th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Classic! That’s why he’s one of the world’s best.

Bobby WolffFebruary 19th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Hi Ross,

Geir Helgemo is certainly one of the best and BTW is always Actively Ethical as well.

Let me suggest the thought process, at the risk of being nerdy, necessary to perform up to what Geir did on this hand:

1. Count the number of tricks needed and/or ways to accumulate them.

Answer: If we can get 6 club tricks we will be home for sure and make an extra trick to boot. OK, lets think what might happen if we only take 5 club tricks (whether we have a chance for 6 or not, which in this case turns out to be not). By making only 5 club tricks what poisoned flowers will we incur along the way?

2. If the opponents attack spades they will have to concede a spade trick and that trick together with 5 club tricks, 2 heart tricks and the diamond trick we won on lead is enough. Meanwhile the opponents will only be able to take 2 spade tricks at most plus a club trick and the ace of diamonds. Now we are getting somewhere.

3. If the opponents switch to hearts (without of course conceding the game going spade trick) can we time the hand to develop a 2d diamond trick to make up for the non spade trick? Yes, if we can create a club entry to our hand, making sure that we will be able to cash the extra diamond trick when it becomes available.

4. Eureka, we’ve done it, The Rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane.

5. While we’re making this hand, let us hope that we do have a club loser so that the opponent at the other table might fail if he doesn’t adopt my line. “Splendid” “Everything is coming up roses”.

6. Now really, was that so difficult? I think I’ll change my first name to Geir (could be unisex) so that everyone will know how good I am.

Thanks for creating this scenario, although others may not agree.

David WarheitFebruary 19th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Except, of course, the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. Otherwise Eliza Doolittle and I are going to boycott Iberia Airlines.

bruce karlsonFebruary 20th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Why not play the ace first to either drop a lonely Q or identify a finessible (sp?) Q with West. An expert with 4 C would not take the J anyway. Greeks bearing gifts, etc., might even tempt a lesser mortal into the correct play.

There must be something wrong with this thought else Geir would have done it. What is it??

Bobby WolffFebruary 20th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Hi David and Bruce,

David, I could have said, the reign in Spain stays mainly on the plane referring to Isabella (a few years before the Wright brothers) or Franco not deplaning. In any event my wife, Judy has tried in vein to get me to use spell chek, but why should a grate speller like me have to use a devise I obviously don’te kneed.

Bruce, if the ace of clubs is cashed before leading the jack from dummy the defense can win and lead a heart. If declarer wins in dummy he then is eventually kept off of dummy after declarer goes about his business of developing the game winning diamond trick. If declarer wins the heart in hand and knocks out the ace of diamonds, a heart continuation will eventually prevent declarer from cashing his clubs since he needs the 10 to get back to his game fulfilling diamond trick. GEIR WINS AGAIN and I also should have referred to Geir’s Active Ethics always being evident at the table since I am not privy to his otherwise life’s adventures.