Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 22, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead:J

“(Studies) perfect nature and are perfected by experience.”

— Francis Bacon

Today’s deal contains points of expert technique in both the auction and the play. To start with, when North’s overcall is raised, he should visualize making three no-trump if South can solidify the diamond suit or has a second spade stopper. The three-spade bid should deliver a whole or partial spade stopper and is superior to a direct three-no-trump bid. With the right hand, which he has, South can bid three no-trump and make it. But note that North would go down if he played three no-trump and received a spade lead.


As it is, South declares three no-trump and is happy to receive a spade lead into his tenace. He wins the first trick cheaply in hand and now must focus on what can go wrong in his game.


The obvious hitch will come if diamonds do not split. To neutralize the spade attack, South should lead a club at once, developing one trick there in case the diamonds do not run. If West ducks, declarer establishes the diamond suit. If West wins and plays spades, then South ducks the spade to cut defensive communications. Now it would not help West to play on either hearts or clubs. Assuming he continues the attack on spades, South can set up diamonds without allowing West on lead to run the spade suit.


Note that if East’s diamond entry is knocked out first, a spade return leaves the contract dead in the water when diamonds do not behave.

ANSWER: There seems to be no rush to play spades. Declarer is surely very short in that suit and leading spades might just set up discards for him. If you WERE to lead a spade, the queen might be right, in case declarer has a bare jack or 10. It seems more likely that your side has heart ruffs coming. Lead the top of your doubleton and hope to build your diamond jack into a trick.


South Holds:

Q 9 7 4
9 2
J 6 4
K J 4 3


South West North East
  1 Dbl. 1
1 1 NT 2 3
All 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


Steven P HaverMay 22nd, 2010 at 3:05 pm

If South plays as recommended, West can return a LOW Spade at trick 3. South must duck, East wins S9, and should have no trouble finding a Heart switch.

Declarer must duck again, West wins HK, and switches to a low Club. When East is in with D trick, a club return is the fifth defensive trick.

Undisputed that the low spade could cost the contract, when South has S9 and East HA. But, that layout seems unlikely; East might well have raised on the first round. At least at total points, there’s a good case for the play.

Somewhat related, you didn’t actually SAY that, if the defense does establish Spades, and West follows to the second D, South should finesse.