Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: None

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


South West North East
  1 Pass Pass
Dbl. 2 Pass Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:Q

“A man is never so on trial as in the moment of excessive good fortune.”

— Lew Wallace

After South captured the heart-queen lead with the ace in four spades, it all looked like plain sailing until the second top trump revealed the 4-1 break. There now seemed to be a loser in each suit, as dummy’s apparent lack of entries precluded any chance of a trump coup. But South was unwilling to give up yet, so soldiered on with a low diamond. West rose with the ace and returned a second heart to South’s king.


As East-West were playing five-card majors, declarer knew that East was out of hearts. Therefore, there were two chances left. First, if East had begun with three clubs, they were precisely the queen, jack and 10 — possible, but unlikely, in view of the bidding. Second, and a far better chance, was that East had precisely four clubs.


As both possibilities could be investigated by the same play, declarer cashed the ace and king of clubs, then exited with a third club. South was happy to see West show out, and after East won with the nine, any return except a club would hand declarer the contract on the spot. A diamond would give declarer access to dummy, and a spade would give declarer a free finesse.


So East returned the club jack, but this only delayed matters. South ruffed, then played the queen and another spade. On lead with the jack of trumps, East had only diamonds to return. So South’s losing heart went away on dummy’s diamond king.

ANSWER: Your three-club call was a second negative, suggesting 0-4 points and not much of a spade fit. Now that partner has shown spades and diamonds, you suddenly have a great hand! A simple raise to four diamonds may not yet get across your suitability, but a jump to five diamonds would suggest fewer high cards. So make the simple raise and be prepared to cooperate at your next turn.


South Holds:

3 2
7 3 2
K 8 5 3
7 6 5 2


South West North East
    2 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
3 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


David WarheitMarch 11th, 2010 at 6:33 am

West made a big mistake by bidding two diamonds. Given his paucity of high card points, south knows west is most likely 5-5 in the reds. He wins the heart ace and cashes one spade. He now knows that west has but two black cards left, with the odds heavily in favor of them both being clubs. He then cashes the other heart, the ace-king of clubs and leads a diamond. West wins, cashes a heart and now must lead a red card. If he leads a diamond, dummy wins, south dumping his losing club, and south still has to lose only a spade. If he leads a heart, east can overruff, but now south loses no spades or he can discard, but south discards his club; either way making four. How would you rank this line of play against the line actually chosen?

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Hi David,

After a quick analysis, the line of play declarer adopted in the column was close to foolproof, assuming West’s bid of 2 diamonds showed 5, a likely distribution since West had precious few high cards. Declarer was then able to parry and thrust East back in the lead to eventually force him to enable dummy to take the game going trick with the King of Diamonds (taking care of declarer’s possible fourth loser, the third heart).

Your line of play was strictly dependent on your somewhat rash statement that West was heavily favored to have 2 clubs and 1 spade, instead of 1 club and 2 spades. In reality, it appears that those two possibilities were relatively close in probability, even taking into consideration the possibility of West’s opening lead of the queen of hearts instead of a would be singleton club (perhaps the queen or the jack).

To add to the rub, it might prove somewhat embarrassing for declarer to go down on this hand with spades being originally 3-2. My thoughts revert back to 1968 when, if one of the original Aces had gone down with the spades splitting evenly, what the conversation might have been while the hand was being reviewed. Would it have made entry under one of the Seven Deadly Sins, Unilateral Action or possibly under an Eighth newly created Sin of, Almost No-Win Declarer Play, calling attention to the superior line used by the column declarer?

In any event it is all in great fun and I, for at least one, appreciate your continued innovation.