Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead:3

“I know enough of the world now, to have almost lost the capacity of being much surprised by anything.”

— Charles Dickens

In today’s deal from the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams held in Houston last spring, Glenn Milgrim demonstrated some nifty footwork defending against three no-trump.


As West, he led a fourth-highest heart to the king and ace. Declarer now led a spade to dummy and a spade to the jack and queen. East’s spade plays were the two and seven. A high-low would have been conventional (the Smith Echo), suggesting either surprising extra heart length or an additional heart honor — in this case the jack.


What should West do now?


Glenn inferred that declarer’s decision to go after spades rather than diamonds argued strongly that he had five spades to the A-J together with A-J-third in hearts, plus the club ace.


The defenders could set up hearts, but that would only give them three quick tricks, while declarer would already be up to eight (the two minor-suit aces, two hearts and four spades). If declarer was left to his own devices, dummy’s club queen would represent his ninth trick; so desperate measures were called for.


Glenn therefore shifted to the diamond king. As you can see from the full hand, after that play, declarer could do nothing to avoid his fate. He ducked the diamond, won the continuation, and led up to the club queen, but the defenders had sufficient communications to take two diamond tricks and one trick in each of the other suits. Three no-trump was made on less challenging defense at the other table.

ANSWER: Did you consider trying for game? Remember that partner probably has only three spades and has opted for the weakest way to raise spades. He did have a cue-bid of two clubs with any hand interested in higher things. Even if partner gives you the missing trump honors and the diamond ace, you’d be worried about five possible losers — and he might be a LOT weaker than that. Pass and hope to make two spades.


South Holds:

A J 9 5 4
A J 7
J 5
A 8 6


South West North East
    Pass 1
1 Dbl. 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


BarryMarch 31st, 2010 at 2:29 pm

OK, so there was bad proof reading, but who had the club king and who had the club jack?

Bobby WolffMarch 31st, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Hi Barry,

Yes there is and was. West had the Club King and East the Club Jack, making the hand makable except against Milgram’s inspired defense.

Very sorry for duplicated card disruption. We’ll try and correct this eyesore from here.

Thank you!