Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: N/S

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


South West North East
    Pass Pass
4 Pass Pass 4 NT*
Pass 5 5 Pass
Pass Dbl. All Pass  
*Two-suited takeout including diamonds

Opening Lead:K

“We’ve trod the maze of error round,

Long wandering in the winding glade;

And now the torch of truth is found,

It only shows us where we strayed.”

— George Crabbe

Eddie Kantar, in his book “Kantar on Kontract” (at remarks that when almost every player in a championship event makes the same defensive error on the same hand, you begin to realize the game cannot be played mechanically; there is still a premium for clear thinking.


When this deal was played in the Blue Ribbon Pairs one year, many Souths bought the contract in four or five spades and invariably made five, even though there are three inescapable heart losers. What happened?


Apparently every West player who saw partner play the heart 10 at trick one couldn’t wait to cash the ace and try to give partner a ruff. What partner was supposed to ruff with remains a mystery. Surely South has seven spades for his vulnerable pre-empt, which leaves East with a void. If West leads any card other than the heart ace at trick two, the hand can be defeated, as South cannot avoid three heart losers.


There is a lesson here. Think before you play, and if the bidding tells you that partner is void in trumps, it is probably not a great idea to try to give him a ruff. Yes, partner might have had the Q-10 of hearts in a long suit, but where are declarer’s heart losers going? If declarer has four small hearts, he will not be able to discard all his losers on winners from dummy, so you can sit back and wait to collect your heart winners at the end of the hand.

ANSWER: Even as a passed hand you are not really worth more than a minimum action — but you surely intend to compete if the opponents join in again. That said, the best way to get both majors into play is to respond one spade, so you can bid hearts economically if the opponents compete in the minors.


South Holds:

J 9 7 3
9 8 5 4
Q 9 3


South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 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


Michael BeyroutiMarch 24th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,

I submitted a question with the comments of March 7.

Thank you,