Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 12, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead:6

“We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts.”

— Patrick Henry

In today’s no-trump game declarer was beguiled by the fact that he could make two tricks in spades. Taking them, however, meant the demise of the contract.


West led the spade six to East’s king, and seeing that the jack and 10 would provide a second spade stopper, declarer won with the ace, then set about dislodging the club ace. East returned the spade five, but West withheld the queen, knowing that East had a third spade. (South’s response to Stayman denied that he held four spades.)


Successfully locating the diamond queen brought the trick tally to eight, but as soon as South led a heart, East pounced with the ace to return the spade that set the contract.


South had focused on the small rather than the big picture. East was marked with both missing aces by his opening bid. When West chose to ignore his partner’s diamond call and led the spade six, it was almost certainly from a five-card or six-card suit — which left no more than three spades for East.


Had South sacrificed his second spade trick and withheld his ace until the third round, East would have had no spade to return when he subsequently came on lead with his aces. Even if the defenders had shifted to diamonds, declarer would have had enough time to set up hearts and clubs before the defenders got their suit going, spelling success for South’s game.

ANSWER: Your partner has shown a very good hand with five or more spades (say in the 17-20 range). You have enough to drive to game, but having jumped on the previous round, you do not need to do more than make a simple call of two no-trump, expressing your hand-type very nicely. Let partner describe his hand further at a convenient level.


South Holds:

10 3
K Q 8 3
K 7 3
J 8 7 3


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


bruce karlsonMarch 26th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

An excellent example of the ease with which almost any player can achieve a good result. Concentration and rudimentary arithmetic are all that are required.

The sequence actually leads to a bidding question: Swap a club for a spade and I would deny a major to play in 2 or 3 NT. My reasoning is that there is very likely no ruffing power, 9 tricks may be easier than 10, and it throws off perceptive defenders (as it would in this hand). I have had to listen to victims complain and a bad board or two, but on the whole is has worked.

Have I been lucky or smart? What do you resond with a 4/3/3//3 or 3/4/3/3?

Bobby WolffMarch 26th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Hi Bruce,

With either of those distributions (and with at least 9-14 HCP’s) I respond an automatic 3NT as long as I have (with 9) at least one marriage (K-Q together) or one bridge pinochle (Q-J together) and preferably at least 1 ten. Without those, I content myself with raising to 2NT with those distributions.

The argument against not checking on a 4-4 major suit fit is that, even with that distribution why should it be a mirror distribution so checking on it is right? Experience, at least mine, dictates that even when mirror distribution does not occur that the advantage gleaned by not checking (using Stayman) often gets the wrong lead from the opponents which tips the scales back to NT.

Obviously it is close, but, at least to me, by being somewhat of an unpredictable opponent, causes gains where sometimes they should not exist, but do. One of the beauties of playing bridge well is the realization, even after many years, that many of the games mysteries are not exactly as we were taught or as we originally visualized them.